Yun He Academy – Tea Culture
Each term, our ZAFU International Office invites foreign teachers and students to an event or an experience. Last fall we enjoyed a mountain excursion; this time we got to experience a tea ceremony and much more at the Yun He Academy in Hangzhou.
Tea preparation and tea drinking as an art dates back 3,000 years. Our ZAFU campus offers a major in tea culture. Many businesses offer tea as part of their negotiation strategy.
Teahouses have long been centers of social life for gossip, playing cards, watching opera performances, and when we were in Chengdu, we even saw people having their ear wax removed there too. They are pleasant spots to while away an afternoon over a bottomless cup of tea. Attendants bring boiling water to add to your tea pot as long as you want to stay. Teahouses have also been centers of activism and free discussion. Although many were shut down during the Cultural Revolution, they are everywhere now. In the spring when the first delicate tea leaves come out, some like the tea grown near Lin’an sell for more per ounce than gold. Many Chinese take tea drinking and tea culture very seriously.
Upstairs in the academy is a meditation room where we sat on prayer cushions and were led by a Zen master–distracted only by the numerous flashes of cameras documenting this first Yun He Academy tour for foreigners.
Then a Chinese calligraphy master showed us how to do it. My Mandarin teacher says that when she was a child she had to practice calligraphy three hours a day. If her mother was able to walk by and pull the brush from her hand, it would be obvious that the girl wasn’t focused. It is another beautiful art that the Chinese cherish.
The tour ended in a garden setting at umbrella tables with a delicious lunch–and of course, tea to drink.
So know that tea is the number one drink of most Chinese people. Traditionally tea has been considered one of the seven basic necessities of life (along with fuel, oil, rice, salt, soy sauce, and vinegar). According to Lonely Planet China, the Chinese were the first to cultivate tea, and they have mastered the art of growing, brewing, and drinking the leaves.
At the Yun He Academy, we learned about the famous Hangzhou longjing and biluochun green teas.
I think I will go brew a cup right now. I wish you could join me. Aloha, Renee