Listen to the Editorial Conversation for this chapter:
“People no longer use powdered tea from Jiangxi. Now, loose-leaf tea is preferred everywhere.”
- Ye Ziqi (葉子奇, l. c. 1327– ~1390, late-Yuan-early-Ming), Ming Dynasty Notes of Ye Ziqi (草木子, cao mu zi).
The Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644 CE) was a period of (relative) stability and (relatively) good governance with changes in laws to ease the burdens of peasants, farmers, artists, and craftsmen in the merchant-economy; these changes led to the emergence of a developed urban-life and the growth of cities with contemporarily high standards of living. The confluence of a merchant economy, increasing living standards, and growing distribution of wealth, led to a flourishing of the arts, with particularly rapid development in ceramic techniques and technology.
The prosperity of urban life and culture of the mid-Ming dynasty brought Chinese culinary traditions to new heights; the literati connoisseurship of tea and alcohol developed, predominantly, in the affluent provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, a region of tea, silk, and rice cultivation. The construction and use of tea rooms became an important means of internal self-cultivation and an outward expression of wealth and knowledge within literati society; wealthy individuals often hosted tea gatherings and discussions in their tea room or garden, with servants attending, while the host and guests appreciated flowers, calligraphy, hand scrolls, or antiques.
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