exotic legend exist,
but at any rate it is easy to believe that the Chinese were first in
tea infusion. It is certain that Chinese, first in many things, were
only more progressive than other peoples, but linked with their
were important researches, and invaluable discoveries, which the
world has long ago recognized. Then, why not add custom of making of
to the list?
At any rate, it is easy to believe that the
Chinese were first in the tea
fields, and that undoubtedly the plant was a native of both China and
it was slumbering on the slopes of India, unpicked, unsteeped, undrunk,
unhonored, and unsung.
A celebrated Buddhist, St. Dengyo Daishai,
is credited with having introduced
tea into Japan from China as early as the fourth century. It is likely
was the first to teach the Japanese the use of the herb, for it had
been a favorite beverage in the mountains of the Celestial
Kingdom. The plant, however, is found in so many parts of Japan that
be little doubt but what it is indigenous there as well.
The word TEA is of Chinese origin, being
derived from the Amoy and Swatow
reading, "Tay," of the same character, which expresses both the ancient
tea, "T'su," and the more modern one, "Cha." Japanese tea,
Tea was not known in China before the Tang
dynasty, 618-906 A.D. An infusion
of some kind of leaf, however, was used as early as the Chow dynasty,
B.C., as we learn from the Urh-ya, a glossary of terms used in ancient
and poetry. This work, which is classified by subjects, has been
assigned as the
beginning of the Chow dynasty, but belongs more properly to the era of
Confucius, K'ung Kai, 551-479 B.C.
Although known in Japan for more than a
thousand years, tea only gradually
became the national beverage as late as the fourteenth century.
In the first half of the eighth century, 729
A.D., there was a record made of
a religious festival, at which the forty-fifth Mikado---"Sublime
Tenno, entertained the Buddhist priests with tea, a hitherto unknown
from Corea, which country was for many years the high-road of Chinese
After the ninth century, 823 A.D., and for
four centuries thereafter, tea fell into disuse, and almost oblivion,
among the Japanese. The nobility, and Buddhist priests, however,
drink it as a luxury.
During the reign of the eighty-third
Emperor, 1199-1210 A.D., the cultivation
of tea was permanently established in Japan. In 1200, the bonze,
brought tea seeds from China, which he planted on the mountains in one
most northern provinces. Yei-Sei is also credited with introducing the
custom of ceremonious tea-drinking. At any rate, he presented tea seeds
Mei-ki, the abbot of the monastery of To-gano (to whom the use of tea
recommended for its stimulating properties), and instructed him in the
of its cultivation, treatment, and preparation. Mei-ki, who laid out
near Uzi, was successful as a pupil, and even now the tea-growers of
neighborhood pay tribute to his memory by annually offering at his
first gathered tea-leaves.
After that period, the use of tea became
more and more in fashion, the monks
and their kindred having discovered its property of keeping them awake
long vigils and nocturnal prayers.
Prom this time on the development and
progress of the plant are interwoven
with the histories and customs of these countries.