Making the Tradition

By: Jie Yan  

As a commodity that could be identified with Buddhism, tea has been an essential part of the monastery life in Chinese Buddhist temples since the mid-eighth century. According to the local people’s narrations, the Jingshan temple in Hangzhou held a “Jingshan Tea Ceremony” to treat guests since the Song dynasty, and the ceremony was transmitted to Japan, which later greatly affected the Japanese tea ceremony. Moreover, “Jingshan Tea Ceremony” was enrolled in China’s National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010. However, recent scholars inclined to admit that the “Jingshan Tea Ceremony” is a fake concept which first appeared nowhere but in an article of 1983 by a tea expert promoting the local tea. Despite the fact that the concept is open to doubt, the temple is sparing no effort to restore the Chan tea ceremony to go with its reconstruction, while the local authorities and tea companies are recovering a folk version of the ceremony and to make it a significant part of the local Chan tea culture as well. Through ethnographic field research and through analysis of primary source material on the history of the temple, this paper will focus on the Buddhists elites’ and local people’s practices of the recovery and reinvention of the Jingshan tea ceremony. The cooperation, tension, and negotiation between different social agents diversified and enriched the local people’s understanding of the Chan tea culture, and the Jingshan tea and the tea ceremony have become the identity-laden cultural capital to make the place.

Tea Culture Tradition
Food, Politics, and Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Jie Yan

Ph. D. student, Anthropology, University of Alberta, Canada
Alberta, Canada