A story about a tea drinking of a Great Master and a minister of muses from Zhang Dai


This story tells that a participant of tea drinking can not possess a skill of tea preparation. Still, in the process of tea tasting, an ability aesthetic assessment plays an important role. In this case a sophistication of surroundings, atmosphere of complete peace and solitude, original flavor of utensils used are of prime importance – its classical simplicity and sophistication, quality of water and tea brewed. And what goes without saying the main accent here is made on personal qualities of a man: a participant of a tea drinking should poses self-control, inner culture and have a sense of beauty.

At the end of the governing of Ming dynasty there lived a man called Ming Venshui. He was widely known and was considered a true master of tea ceremony. Because of his ripe age people called him Ming Laozi – The Old Ming. Ming Venshui was born in Anhui province, but then moved to Fujian and started to live in Wuyi Mountains. When famous scientists, literary men, noble people and other worshipers of beauty visited these places they definitely came to visit Ming Venshui, even if they didn't have an honor to know him personally. All of them were great aesthetes and dreamt to try famous tea of the Old Ming.

One day a person came to Fujian, ho loved travelling, theatre and music, a connoisseur of tea and delicate food, his name was Zhang Dai. He wanted to visit Ming Venshui to show his respect to the great master. The Old Ming left his house in the early morning and came back only in the evening. When he saw Zhang Dai without a single word he again left his house to find a crook he lost on his way. When he came back, it was already a late evening. The visitor was still waiting and the old man was very happy. He understood that this person wanted to taste good tea with all his heart, that is why he came here. Ming Venshui brought himself a teakettle, heated a brazier and immediately prepared a fresh infusion – it took him just a moment, as fast as a blow of strong wind and a raindrop. Then the Old Ming invited the guest to enter his house. The room was clean, on a tiny long table there were a plane cattle of classical simplicity from Isin and small porcelain cups from emperor's potteries. Due to the ultimately perfect quality such cups were considered priceless and they were called «tiny porcelain leaves, which cost one thousand golden coins». The host poured fragrant potion into cups – the liquid started to play with silver patches, bright and rich fragrance. Not a single time did the guest praised this tea and all the time he was saying that it was peerless perfection. After a conversation about the tea, the host and the guest started to discuss the water, which was used to prepare tea. Here a new riddle was given, but Zhang Dai coped with it perfectly: he not only identified the quality of water, but also specified whether it was fresh or stagnated. Ming Venshui again couldn't hold his astonishment and immediately brought from a living room a famous tea Bai Jiguan to offer it to the honorable guest. In this historic epoch one tradition was obligatory at tea drinking: if a guest describes taste and fragrance of tea correctly and tells all characteristic features of a drink, a host should offer him some tea of higher quality.

Venshui poured a full cup for the guest and said: «Please, try this sort». Zhang Dai answered: «Bright, rich fragrance and very rich, full taste. It must be a tea of the first harvest, isn't it? And the one you prepared in the beginning must be an autumn one». Ming Venshui burst out laughing and said: «I am already 70 years old and I can give very precise appraisals – I have unsurpassed skill in this. But even I can not be compared with the honorable guest». Since that time they became friends.