Remarks by Chargé d’affaires Xu Xueyuan at the Tea for Harmony Yaji Cultural Salon
2023/05/23 20:25

May 21, 2023

Dear friends,

Welcome to the Tea for Harmony Yaji Cultural Salon at the Chinese Embassy on International Tea Day.

Tea has a long history in China. According to the world’s earliest monograph on tea — The Classic of Tea by Lu Yu in the eighth century during the Tang Dynasty, tea as a beverage was first discovered by Emperor Shennong sometime around 2723 BC, and gained popularity during the rule of the Duke of Zhou in the 11th century BC. Over thousands of years, the Chinese have seen tea as a drink improving health and longevity. In late 2022, China’s traditional tea processing techniques and associated social practices were inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This attests to international recognition of China’s tea processing.

Tea is a gift from China to the world. After sophisticated processing, leaves are made into tea with a rich variety of flavors when brewed with water. As early as over two millennia ago, Chinese tea was introduced into other parts of the world via the ancient Silk Road by land and sea. Over 200 years ago, the first group of Chinese tea growers travelled a great distance to Brazil to plant tea there and share their skills with locals, which enhanced tea growing and processing techniques in countries including the UK and India as well. At present, tea is produced in more than 60 countries and regions worldwide, and about 3 billion people are tea drinkers. The tea industry has not only contributed significantly to global emission reduction and green development, but also delivered a better life to many people. In the production and trade of tea, people in China and around the world are sharing the development dividends together.

Tea isa bridge for exchange and mutual learning among civilizations. After going global, it has been adapted to different environments and cultural contexts, giving rise to diverse tea cultures. In this we can see the charm of mutual learning between civilizations and the dynamism of cultural exchange. Here I’d like to introduce to you with great delight the delegation from Quanzhou, Fujian Province, who will bring a fabulous tea ceremony and cultural performance tonight. Quanzhou was the starting point of the ancient Maritime Silk Road, and a global hub of maritime trade in the Song and Yuan Dynasties. Various civilizations converged and integrated with each other there, opening up splendid chapters of history and giving birth to dynamic cultures.

Tea is an envoy of Chinese culture. The structure of the Chinese character for tea “茶” illustrates a man surrounded by grass and trees, which fully demonstrates China’s philosophy of harmony between man and nature. Four ideals are valued in traditional Chinese tea ceremony: namely, harmony, tranquility, pleasure, and genuineness, with harmony being the core of all. Peace, harmony, and amity are of paramount importance in Chinese culture, and are deeply rooted in the DNA of the Chinese nation. As we Chinese people often say, “When a family lives in harmony, everything will prosper.” In the same vein, when it comes to international relations, we believe in mutual respect and harmony without uniformity. Tea is an example of how various civilizations can prosper respectively and together. While enjoying tea and music today, we may also reflect on the value of harmony embodied in tea.

Tea has born witness to the development of the China-U.S. relationship. In February 1784, President Washington personally hosted the launch ceremony of the “Empress of China”, the first American merchant ship to sail for China. When the ship returned from Guangzhou to New York,it was loaded with about 330,700 pounds of tea. This historic voyage marked the inception of direct trade between China and the U.S. It also helped to break the economic blockade imposed on the U.S. after its War of Independence, and boosted its economic growth and prosperity. In 1972, Chairman Mao Zedong presented President Nixon with 7 ounces of the precious Da Hong Pao (or “Big Red Robe”) tea from Fujian Province as a state gift, which was almost half of the annual production back then. President Nixon was deeply touched. The tea therefore witnessed the normalization of the China-U.S. relationship. At the salon today, we will have the pleasure of enjoying Da Hong Pao, and revisit those beautiful episodes of win-win cooperation between our two countries. We sincerely hope that China and U.S. will join hands to bring bilateral relations back onto the track of sound and steady growth for the peace and development of the world.

In closing, I wish all of you a wonderful evening. Thank you.

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