Tea: Bridging Cultures Across Time

In China, tea is not only a beverage but also the crystallization of civilization and knowledge passed down from generation to generation.

1 min read
This aerial drone photo taken on May 9, 2024 shows workers picking tea leaves in a tea garden in Zhuyang Village of Xiping Township in Anxi County, southeast China's Fujian Province. (Xinhua/Wei Peiquan)

Following article is based on the speech delivered by the author at the Opening Ceremony of “Tea for Harmony-Yaji” Cultural Salon in Colombo, Sri Lanka

China is the birthplace of tea. Through historical routes such as the Silk Road, the Ancient Tea-horse Road, and the Ten Thousand Miles of Tea Road, tea has traveled through time, transcended national bounders, spread across the East and the West, and integrated into different cultures and social customs. Tea has become a significant medium for people in China and around the world to connect and be friends. It facilitates exchanges and mutual learning between China and the world and has become a shared treasure of humanity. In 2022, “Traditional Chinese tea-making techniques and related customs” were included in the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

In China, tea is not only a beverage but also the crystallization of civilization and knowledge passed down from generation to generation. It is not only a way of life but also an integral part of Chinese history and culture. According to reliable historical records, tea cultivation and production in China started 3,000 years ago. According to the legend of Shennong, the first man in Chinese history to use herbs as medicine, tea has a history of 5,000 years in China. Over thousands of years, Chinese tea culture has developed and accumulated rich spiritual and cultural connotations around tea making and tea drinking. It has permeated every corner of society, penetrated into people’s lives, and found its way into various fields of Chinese literature, calligraphy and painting, religion, and medicine. Chinese tea culture advocates the harmonious coexistence of humans and nature and serves as an important link between China and the world. Today, we are engaging in friendly dialogues between civilizations with tea as the medium and promoting mutual understanding and learning between civilizations. I hope that this event will help more and more people understand Chinese tea culture, appreciate the charm of Chinese traditional culture, and jointly promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.

Sri Lankan tea, well known worldwide, has a unique history and cultural heritage. The people of China and Sri Lanka share a long history of growing, making, tasting and drinking tea, fostering exchanges and mutual learning. Though tea is produced in different places, it derives from a common source. Tea has become a common part of lifestyle of the two peoples and an important link to connect and bring them closer.

I hope that everyone here today will enjoy a delightful cup of tea, watch the performances, and enjoy the wonderful time. I believe that tea, as a medium today, will further promote cultural exchanges between the two countries and strengthen the friendship between the two peoples.

Qi Zhenhong

Qi Zhenhong is a Chinese diplomat. After joining Beijing Service Bureau for Diplomatic Missions (DSB) in the late 1980s he worked in various capacities from an Economist to Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in the Kingdom of Bahrain. He is a former President of the China Institute of International Studies and currently serving as the Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka.

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