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.


To drink the famed tea of Hangzhou, emperors used to come on the canal from Beijing

The canal is still a working waterway

ZAFU graduate, Vivian, in the white shirt, now promotes tea culture

The wall at the canal dock depicts Hangzhou residents greeting an arriving emperor

Boys near the dock

Becky, Ryan, me, and Sarah Jean at the Yun He Academy

First cup of tea to welcome us

Tour of the tea library

Gathering for the tea ceremony

Music, narrator, and tea culture presenter

Focused and calm

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.

Tea room

Becky and a new friend; she was able to speak in Chinese to him 🙂

We got to dress in Zen robes, and the Taiwanese Zen master led us in meditation

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.

Master tea roaster at work--the wok is very hot, and the tea needs to be watched very carefully so it is roasted evenly and correctly

My attempt at calligraphy

"Just once in life" - my laughable attempt

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.

Flora and Bob, English teachers from Maine and St. Louis, work in a Hangzhou university. You can also see Barry's arm. He was on the tour too and took most of these photos

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


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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

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