“The First Great Work on Tea” & Much Else

Cha jing [The Classic of Tea] and other writings.

19 full-page & one double-page woodcuts. 25; 39; 25; 24 folding leaves (pagination continuous for the sections on tea). Four vols. 8vo, orig. blue wrappers with bright orange endpapers, new stitching. [China: Ming dynasty, ca. 1573-1620].

A rare enlarged edition of this important collection of Chinese gastronomic classics, dealing with tea, various alcohols, crabs, and vegetables.

The first volume and the first part of the second volume contains the Cha jing by Yu Lu in ten chapters and edited by Shixian Wang (active 16th-17th century), who also wrote on botany. “The first great work on tea, and the basis for most of our knowledge concerning its cultivation and preparation, is Lu Yu’s Tea Classic (Cha jing), which was published in the 760s…According to a contemporary, his book created a craze for tea sets and other paraphernalia, and by the end of the Tang dynasty he was worshipped as a god in many of the tea houses that sprang up as new venues for urban entertainment. The book included discussions of the names and qualities of teas, their picking and processing, the associated utensils, the art of boiling, the art of drinking, historical references, and the finest teas of each region.”–Mark Edward Lewis, China’s Cosmopolitan Empire. The Tang Dynasty, p. 142. The Cha jing inspired many other writings on the same subject.

“For centuries this text was read and used as a source of inspiration by tea connoisseurs and lovers, who revered it as the unmatched ancient core contribution to tea culture, even when the methods of manufacturing and consuming tea had departed completely from those prescribed by Lu Yu.”–Livio Zanini, “Chinese Writings on Tea. Classifications and Compilations” in Ming Qing Yanjiu, 21 (2017), p. 45. Mr. Zanini seems to be the first and only person to begin to grapple with the complexities of the various editions.

The addendum following the second part of the Cha jing, by Sen an lao ren and written in 1269, is entitled Cha ju tu zan (The Names of Twelve Masters of Tea Tools or Illustrated Praises of Tea Instruments). It is illustrated with 12 fine woodcuts, which depict a basket to hold the charcoal, a wooden scooper and water vessel, a metal crushing roller, a mill, a gourd scooper, a brush, a lacquer tea holder, a tea bowl, a teapot for hot water, another kind of brush, a tea cloth, etc.

Beginning on leaf 43 in Vol. II, Cha jing shui bian (Record of Water for Brewing Tea), written in 814 by Youxin Zhang, was directly inspired by Lu’s book. Beginning on leaf 45 we have the Da ming shu ji (Record of the Water of the Daming Reign Period) by Xiu Ouyang (1007-72), a celebrated Chinese poet, historian, and statesman of the Song dynasty. On leaf 48 begins the Cha jing wai ji (Adjunct Collection to the Cha jing) of Dashou Sun, Ming scholar and printer of the 16th century. It, too, has been edited by Shixian Wang.

On leaf 51 begins Chapu (Manual on Tea) by the Ming author Yuangqing Gu (1487-1565), edited by Shixian Wang. It is illustrated with seven full-page and one double-page woodcuts of items used in brewing and drinking of tea.

The third volume begins with Sun’s Cha pu wai ji (Adjunct Collection to the Chapu).

Now we move to other subjects. On the first leaf of the new pagination in Vol. III is Jiu pu (Notes on Wine) by Ju Xu and also edited by Wang. Xu describes different alcoholic beverages and quotes from many poems and essays in which wine plays a role. This long text occupies the rest of Vol. III.

The first part of the fourth volume is a text devoted to crabs — Xie pu (Notes on Crab), written by Gong Fu about 1059 and edited by Wang. Recipes are included.

The second and final part of Vol. IV contains the Shu shi pu written by Dasou Chen in the Song dynasty. One of the very first texts on soybeans and vegetarianism, it seeks to reverse the exotic and bizarre gastronomic excesses of the southern Song by promoting the simplicity and elegance of vegetarian fare. The author states that soybeans (shu) are a good and simple clean food. Again, Wang is the editor.

In very good condition, preserved in a chitsu. There is some worming, mostly marginal, and some leaves with careful and relatively minor repairs, occasionally with minor loss of text.

Price: $37,500.00

Item ID: 6950

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