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Chinese Tea Mythology: The Big Red Robe

Da Hong Pao's Big Red Robe
Da Hong Pao's Big Red Robe

Da Hong Pao is a well known oolong tea from Wuyi Mountains of the Fujian province of China. There are four types of teas grown in this area and Da Hon Pao (Big Red Robe Tea) is by far the most popular.

According to legends , there was an emperor in the Ming Dynasty whose mother had grown gravely ill. The mother was given a cup of tea and within merely moments she began to recover. The emperor was so grateful that he had copious amounts of a rare red cloth to cover the trees during that winter to ensure their survival. The locals then began to call the tree Big Red Robe in honor of the cloth that was wrapped around these trees.

There are other legends that state that it was not the mother but the wife of the emperor who fell deathly ill. These legends tell the story that the empress grew up in the Wuyi Mountains and her illness was due to homesickness.

The emperor loved his wife dearly and employed any and every doctor of the land to try and save his wife. However, nothing could be done to save the dying empress.

Then there came a pious farmer who greatly loved the emperor and lived but a stone’s throw from where the empress originated. He prayed, hoping to glean and idea on how to save his beloved emperor’s wife. One night, he dreamed that a goddess came to him and told him the cure: a gnarled bush that grew on a high and steep cliff. The farmer bravely scaled the cliff and retrieved a couple of leaves.

The leaves were immediately sent to the emperor, who decided to take the risk and make the tea. As soon as the tea touched the lips of the empress, she was reminded of her home and quickly began to regain her health.

The emperor was so pleased and grateful that he gave the farmer imperial red robes to honor the farmer for his services of the emperor and his wife. In response, the farmer then called the tea ‘red robe tea’ and the tea was picked yearly for the empress to remind her of her home.

I think it’s such a beautiful story. I also believe that it speaks volumes on the healing power of tea. It may not bring people from the brink of death, but curing homesickness….sure thing. What do you think, dear readers?