The Importance of Tea as a Ceremony

Many cultures around the world share a cup of tea in a ceremonial way. It is incorporated into other social rituals like weddings. But it can also be served as a spiritual tradition. The first account of tea being shared in a meaningful way is the legend of Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher who is considered to be the father of Taoism. This legend of his sharing tea and his great wisdom is the first kind of tea ceremony. 

Image by Edward Theodore Chalmers Werner’s Myths and Legends of China 

The Ceremony of Tea – Lao Tzu Shares Wisdom and Tea

Lao Tzu lived in China around 500 BCE. He was a man of great wisdom, recognized as a sage and a teacher. But late in his life he saw that his teachings were being disregarded and that corruption and chaos were bringing about the collapse of the kingdom. He headed west to the mountains. There resided at the pass an old gate keeper, Yin Hsi, who was also a sage. He had waited many years, knowing that one day a great man would pass through this gate. Yin Hsi ceremoniously served tea to Lao Tzu, persuading him to share his wisdom before traveling on. The words that Lao Tzu spoke were recorded and became the book known as the Tao Te Ching.

The word Tao can be translated as The Way, the source or essence or basic principle of the universe. The book has been translated into many languages. Some say that it is the wisest book ever written, and it is still in print in many languages around the world.

Following is a brief excerpt:

There was something formless and perfect before the universe was born. It is serene. Empty. Solitary. Unchanging. Infinite. Eternally present. It flows through all things, inside and outside, and returns to the origin of all things. It is the mother of the universe. For lack of a better name, I call it the Tao.

from the TAO TE CHING by Lao Tzu

Confucius Meets Laozi (Wikipedia)

This article has been updated from the original publication in 2006.