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The Legend of Daruma

Occasionally we come across historical references about tea that are entertaining. This piece, written by Thomas Short, M.D., in A Dissertation Upon Tea, describes one of the popular ancient legends about the origin of tea. Please excuse any references that may be considered not politically correct as this was written in 1730 and we are quoting it without edits.

"The Japanese have a curious fable, as to the first discovery of the virtues of Tea by Daruma [also known as Bodhidharma], and which most probably originated in its being found either to be of service to the eyes, or from its efficacy in preventing drowsiness. Daruma was an eminent Pagan saint, who lived about the 519th year of Christ; he was the third son of Kasinew, an Indian king, and a kind of pope, being the twenty-eighth successor of the holy see of Siaka, the founder of their Paganism, who was a negro, born 1023 years before Christ. Daruma was a most austere man, who, from an aim at perfect holiness, resolved to deny himself all rest, sleep, and relaxation of his body, and consecrated his mind day and night, without intermission, to God; after he had watched many years, one day being weary and over-fasted, he unluckily dropped asleep; awaking the next morning, full of sorrow for breaking his solemn vow, he cut off both his eye-brows, those instrument of his crime, and, with indignation, threw them to the ground. Returning the next day to that same place, behold! out of his eye-brows were grown two beautiful Tea shrubs! Daruma, eating some of the leaves, was presently filled with new joy and strength to pursue his divine mediations. He presently communicated to his disciples the great benefit he found from Tea, which he published to mankind. Thus were the virtues of Tea discovered to the world, say the Japanese!"

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