A fitting tribute to the birthplace of tea

By Corey Cooper
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, April 25, 2012
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From Apr. 12 to Apr. 19, China.org.cn reporter Corey Cooper travelled to Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture and Lancang County, Pu'er Prefecture in southern Yunnan Province to report on the Dai and Blang New Year celebrations as well as Pu'er tea production. This is part two in a two-part series.


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Part I: Blang worship tea spirit in ancient ceremony

Visiting the sacred tea mountain outside Mangjing Village in Lancang County, Yunnan Province is akin to visiting the birthplace of tea itself. From the village, visitors can take a car or hike about 3 kilometers up a winding dirt road to the start of the mountain trail. From here, visitors are faced with roughly a half-hour hike to the top. The trail is lined with dozens of the oldest tea trees in China, with many more than 1,000 years old. The holy tea shrine atop the mountain is the site where the Blang (Chinese: 布朗族 pinyin: Bulangzu) practice their most sacred of rituals once every four years in the presence of Blang from all over China and Myanmar: the sacrifice of an ox to the Spirit of Tea.

Shrine to the Spirit of Tea on top of the holy tea mountain near Mangjing Village, Lancang County, Yunnan Province. [Photo: Corey Cooper]

Su Guowen, prince and spiritual leader of the Blang people, retired from his work as a full-time tea producer in 2003. He has since devoted himself to the preservation of Mangjing and the Blang culture.

As one of his first duties since assuming the role of prince of the Blang people, Su, 70, reinstated the ancestral Blang tradition of designating "spirit trees" in the sacred mountain's ancient tea tree garden. Villagers place spirit staffs next to the oldest trees in the garden, which are considered to be "guardian trees" that protect the rest of the younger trees. These staffs must not be damaged in any way; anyone who disrupts the staffs will carry a curse.

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