Browse Exhibits (7 total)

Tea

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The “invention” of tea as a drink has always been a mystery, even who the inventor might have been is still discussed to this day. However, most people believe that the Yan emperor, also known as Shennong, is the creator of tea. The Classic of Tea written by Lu Yu also states that the first person that discovered tea was Shennong. In the Shennong Bencao Jing, a book about medicines and agriculture in China, is says that Shennong tasted hundreds of herbs and was poisoned seventy-two poisons in one day, but was healed by drinking tea. After that, the popularity of tea grew and was soon exported to other countries around East Asia as well as to European countries via the Silk Road.

From China, tea made its way to Japan around the 8th century. Japan was already importing all sorts of cultural practices and technology from China, and tea was among one of the novelties that eventually made its way to the Japanese islands. By consuming this Chinese novelty, one could elevate themselves within the eyes of others, as tea was inherently connected with the Chinese center of the world. Buddhist monks, however, did not use tea so much for social reasons but rather to help them stay awake while meditating, so it is not surprising that the first cultivation of tea in Japan came via the actions of a Buddhist monk. Around 805 AD a Japanese monk named Eichu brought some tea seeds back from China and planted them for his own personal use. Eventually, however, Eichu introduced the tea to Emperor Saga (r. 810-823) and the emperor was so thoroughly impressed by the drink that he ordered tea to be planted by the masses. Thus, tea became a popular drink in 9th century Japan.

As time went on, drinking tea in the last millennium became much more significant than just the simple act of drinking. Japan had morphed the act of drinking tea into a particular tea ceremony, also called chanoyu. It began from the act of preparing tea and drinking it in its simplest form. Chanoyu evolved over time from humble beginnings, soon after introducing matcha, which is powdered tea, and the concept of chazen ichimi “tea and Zen having the same flavor”.  

Silk

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This exhibition is about silk in three aspects: the production of silk, the silk trade, and the comparision of silk products in the different regions of China.

Yuan Dynasty

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The Yuan Dynasty is a complicated period for all walks of life in China. A foreign Dynasty, the Yuan was founded by the Mongols and its impacts have lasted throughout the centuries.