The Origin of Tea-drinking

There was a monk named Ta Ma who came from the West to China to enlighten the Chinese.

He exposed himself to every possible hardship, being self-denying in the extreme. He lived only upon the herbs of the field; and in order to attain to the highest degree of sanctity, determined to pass his nights as well as days in contemplation of doctrine.

After some time spent thus, he became so weary that he fell asleep. This lapse troubled him sorely.

On awaking the next morning he determined to expiate his vow-breaking sin by cutting off his eyelids! Returning to the place the following day, he was surprised to find that each eyelid had become a shrub, the plant, indeed, which we now call tea.

He took of the leaves and ate them, and found that as he did so his heart was filled with extraordinary exhilaration, and that he had acquired renewed strength for his contemplation. The event being known, his disciples spread the news far and wide.

The ‘Military Emperor’ Wu-te of Wei was once afflicted with bad dreams, in which a spirit seemed to move his brain bones about until his head ached frightfully. He met a Buddhist Monk, who might be the disciple of Ta Ma, told him that on the mountains grew a certain plant called Ch’a, which would heal him. The Emperor followed his advice with complete success. From that time the beneficial effects of tea became know the wide Empire over.

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(Cornaby, William Arthur)

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