Tang, (not just the weird orange stuff)…
So the time is around the year 1000 and the custom of drinking tea began to spread from southern China throughout other countries in the Orient. This is known as China’s Golden Age in which the Tang Dynasty ruled. Monks were drinking tea like it was going out of style and it not only became a part of a daily beverage but also as a spiritual elixir. It was a way to go beyond this world and loose some inhibitions. Now this is where it gets interesting… because when you ask most people today to name a liquid that makes you loosen up and loose your inhibitions, can you guess what they will say?
Well those people will have some company with Europeans at that time. You see, as the Orient was basking in its Golden Age with tea, Europe was still drinking its foul (think Mad Dog 20/20 but not as good) medieval wine during her Dark Ages. It’s interesting, to see how a society’s beverage of choice can affect its culture. For example notice the two poems during the year 1000. One is about wine in Europe, the other; tea during the Tang dynasty. Who do you think would win the Reader’s Digest contest?
“Wine it is that gives life pleasure,
Yet tis naught in single measure,
Better is it thrice repeated,
And the fourth is rich conceited,
At the fifth, the mind’s labyrinthine,
At the sixth, the body’s supine.”
“I was lying lost in slumber as the morning sun climbed high,
When a thunderous knocking at the door shattered my dreams:
An officer of the law delivering a letter from the Imperial Censor,
Its three great seals slanting across the white silk cover.
Opening it, the words I read bring him vividly to mind.
He says enclosed is three hundred catties of moon-shaped cakes of tea…
The first drink sleekly moistened my lips and throat;
The second banished all my loneliness;
The third expelled the dullness from my mind,
Inducing inspirations born from all the books I read;
The forth broke me out in a light perspiration,
The fifth drink bathed every atom of my being.
Disbursing a lifetime’s troubles through my pores.
The sixth lifted me higher to kinship with Immortals.
This seventh is the utmost I can drink—”
Interesting, one is going into descriptive details of each steeping inspiring him from all the books he has ever read. While the other guy is saying that if you drink enough of this stuff, you’re mind will become twisted and you’ll end the night lying on your back, (I had to look up the meaning of labyrinthine).