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Tieguanyin Oolong Tea is one of the most prized teas grown in China. Tieguanyin is a medium oxidized Oolong with greenish/black color, a beautiful amber infusion, and an intoxicating aroma. The highest quality examples are classified as "Monkey Picked". Legend has it that monkeys were trained by monks to collect the leaves from the branches of the wild tea trees growing on steep mountainsides. In actuality the best Tieguanyin is cultivated, picked and processed by masterful human hands using centuries old techniques.
T�ieh-Kuan-Yin is the name of the Iron Goddess of Mercy and the tea is named for her. Below is the legend surrounding the origin of this magical tea.
The Legend of Tieguanyin
Centuries ago in Sand County, Fujian Province, China, lived a tea farmer named Mr. Wei. Each morning and evening he used to pass by a temple dedicated to the Goddess T�ieh-Kuan-Yin. He was a poor farmer, but was often moved by the poorer condition of the temple. So he would regularly burn incense inside the temple, sweep the floors and clean the statue of the Goddess.
Understanding Mr. Wei's deep devotion to her temple, T�ieh-Kuan-Yin appeared to him in a dream and said: "Behind the temple, deep in a cave is a treasure that will last you for generations, but for it to be valuable you must share it with all of your neighbors."
Waking up and rushing to the cave behind the temple, Mr. Wei searched and searched for the treasure. But the only thing he found was a small sprig of a tea bush. Unhappily he took this sprig and planted it in his tea garden. Over the next few years it grew into a bush. When he made tea from the leaves of this bush, he noticed a unique fragrance and amber infusion which last over many subsequent steeps of the same leaves.
Mr. Wei propagated the bush further into hundreds of tea bushes and, remembering the instructions of the Goddess gave shoots and seeds to all of his neighbors. Traders in the Capital heard of the famous tea named after T�ieh-Kuan-Yin and the region which specialized in growing it. Soon all the farmers in Sand County became prosperous and Tieguanyin Oolong developed a national reputation. The temple was repaired and funds put aside for its upkeep.
The Goddess continues to bless Sand County today as the best Tieguanyin still comes from Fujian in the Wu-Yi Mountains. Other good Tieguanyin style Oolongs are grown in Taiwan as well.
The next legend describes one of the stories of the origin of tea. Of particular interest is the use of tea as an aid to meditation. The spread of tea throughout Asia closely followed the spread of Buddhism. We really appreciate tea's ability to create a calm yet alert state in each of us.
The Legend of Bodhidharma
One legend of tea's origin tells the story of Bodhidharma, an East Indian Bodhisattva who came to China in the 6th Century B.C.E. to teach Buddhism. Bodhidharma is considered the founder of Martial Arts in China, or at least for changing it radically from warring techniques to a practice of spiritual and health exercise.
It is said that when he came to China, in order to attract students he sat in meditation in front of a cave for nine years. During the first three years, people would come by and mimic or ridicule him or even play tricks on him. Sometimes they would defile him, much like children making fun of someone different. During the second three years, people grew tired of bothering an un-reacting statue sitting in meditative repose, and they ignored him. In the final three years, some individuals realized his great accomplishment of sitting in meditation for so long despite the hardship and began to join him in sitting meditation. By the end of the nine years, Bodhidharma spoke in front of thousands of totally receptive students, every one of them became instantly enlightened.
The Sermon he gave was called the Lotus Sutra, Lotus being the flower that represents man's striving quest to find meaning to life and rise above a world of pain and suffering just as the white lotus rises above the muddy water from which it grows. This sudden enlightenment method became known as Ch�an Buddhism. To prepare for this meditation marathon, Bodhidharma would sit for long hours each day. One day he fell asleep during meditation. He was so angry at himself for failing that he cut off his eyelids and threw them to the ground, so that he would never close his eyes again during meditation and fall asleep. To this day, C�han meditation practice always employs an open eyes method and Bodhidharma is always depicted with large, round, saucer like eyes. Legend states that where Bodhidharma's eyelids fell, the first tea plant grew. The quality of tea, which keeps one awake, is Bodhidharma's gift to the Buddhist world of meditators, establishing the drinking of tea as an aid to alert meditation and spiritual development.
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