A toast to 'The King of Tea'
An ancient Chinese saying goes: “Share a good pot of tea, nurture friendship for a lifetime.”
Launched in 2014, Shanghai Tea Week this year not only aims to promote Chinese tea culture, but pays tribute to Wu Juenong (1897-1989), “The King of Tea.”
April 14 marks the 121th anniversary of Wu’s birth.
Organized by the Shanghai Tea Society and the Wu Juenong Memorial Hall, this year’s event is running at the Wu Juenong Memorial Hall (1987 Cao’an Highway) until this weekend.
Located at the Baifo (One Hundred Buddha) Garden in Jiading District, the Wu Juenong Memorial Hall features more than 200 photos, manuals, recipes and books from Wu’s tea research. Wu is widely known as “a modern tea saint” who established China’s first tea major at college and the first institute for tea studies in the country.
Besides the permanent exhibition, there is also a special monthlong display of a small box of 300-year-old tea salvaged from the ship of East India Company ─ the Gotheborg.
In 1745, the ship traveled from Guangzhou to Europe in 1745, but it sank near Gotheborg harbor in Sweden. About 250 years later, it was salvaged in 1992.
Xu Sihai, owner of Baifo Garden and founder of the Wu Juenong Memorial Hall, says that this earliest-ever tea found in the world was green tea grown previously in Zhejiang or Jiangsu Province.
“Kept in sealed pottery, the tea still looks good today, which is almost a miracle,” he says.
Covering 2.66 hectares, Baifo Garden was built by Xu and his team over 13 years, at a price of over 250 million yuan (US$38.4 million).
Dubbed as “the father of purple-clay teapot,” Xu is an ardent lover of Chinese tea culture.
The garden features more than 100 stone statues of Buddha, all with different postures, styles, sizes and expressions. Some date back as far as the Western Jin Dynasty (265-316 AD).
Like any refined Chinese classical garden, it features the four elements prized by ancient literati — water, rocks, plants and pavilions — which together create a peaceful environment for relaxation, contemplation and study.
Placid waters meander past luxuriant pines, cypresses, plum trees and bamboo, while craggy stone sculptures meant to represent China’s famed mountains counterbalance the garden’s more delicate features.
“Tea is the best tonic, and I hope that more Chinese will realize its importance in building our health,” he says. “Tea soothes both the body and soul. Chinese tea culture is really profound.”
According to Xu, a quality cup of tea not only comes from tea itself, but also the teapot and water.
“Teapot is the ‘father’ of tea, and ‘water’ is the mother,” he jokes. “The more one is engaged in tea drinking, the more he would learn about tea culture.”
Beside the exhibition, there is also a series of events during the tea week, from tea performance to lectures.