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Chap. TV. A FRIEND IN NEED. 85
were drinking tea, others smoking, and the remainder stretched upon chairs or tables sound asleep. Seeing strangers arrive, some of the more restless were rather inquisitive, and began to put a number of questions to us. My man Wang was a native of this district, and of course understood the dialect perfectly, but he evidently wanted to have as little to say as possible. As for myself, I told them I did not understand what they said. One fellow in particular, who probably was sharp enough to detect something unusual in my appearance, was determined not to be put off in this way, and kept asking me a variety of questions. At length the old innkeeper came up and said with the utmost gravity, "It is of no use your talking to this person, he understands the Kwan-hwa (or Court dialect) only; you do not speak that, and of course he cannot understand you, nor you him." This seemed to be perfectly satisfactory to all parties, and I was left unmolested.
Our chairs being ready, we got into them, and, passing through the town, crossed the river and took the road for Sung-lo and Hieu-ning. We reached our destination a little before dark, and I had the first view of the far-famed Sung-lo-shan, the hill where green tea is said to have been first discovered.
Sung-lo-shan — Its priests and tea — Its height above the sea — Rock formation — Flora of the hills — Temperature and climate — Cultivation of the tea-shrub — Mode of preserving its seeds — The young plants — Method of dyeing green teas — Ingredients employed — Chinese reason for the practice — Quantity of Prussian blue and gypsum taken by a green-tea drinker — Such teas not used by the Chinese — Mr. Warrington's observations.
The hill of Sung-lo, or Sung-lo-shan, is situated in the province of Kiang-nan and district of Hieu-ning, a town in lat . 29° 56' N, long. 118° 15' E. It is famous in China as being the place where the greentea shrub was first discovered, and where green tea was first manufactured. In a book called the 'Hieuning-hien chy,' published A.d. 1693, and quoted by Mr. Ball, there is the following notice of this place:—
"The hill or mountain where tea is produced is Sung-lo mountain. A bonze of the sect of Fo taught a Kiang-nan man, named Ko Ty, the art of making tea, and thus it was called Sung-lo tea. The tea got speedily into great repute, so that the bonze became rich and abandoned the profession of priest. The man is gone, and only the name remains. Ye men of learning and travellers who seek Sung-lo tea may now search in vain, that which is sold in the markets is a mere counterfeit."
Sung-lo-shan appears to be between two and three Chap. V. SUNG-LO-SHAN. 87
thousand feet above the level of the plains. It is very barren, and, whatever may have formerly been the case, it certainly produces but little tea now; indeed, from all I could learn, the tea that grows upon it is quite neglected, as far as cultivation is concerned, and is only gathered to supply the wants of the priests of Fo, who have many temples amongst these rugged wilds. Nevertheless it is a place of great interest to every Chinaman, and has afforded a subject to many of their writers.
The low lands of this district and those of Mooyuen, situated a few miles further south, produce the greater part of the fine green teas of commerce; hence the distinction betwixt hill-tea and garden-tea, the latter simply applying to those teas which are carefully cultivated in the plains. The soil here is a rich loam, not unlike the cotton soil of Shanghae, but more free in its texture, being mixed with a considerable portion of sand.
When forming our ideas regarding the low lands, or plains, where the fine garden-tea is produced, it should be kept in mind that the level country here is not in reality low, but is a very considerable height above the level of the sea—much higher, for example, than the plain of Shanghae. From Hang-chow-foo to Hwuy-chow-foo the distance is about 800 le (150 to 200 miles); and, when we take into consideration the rapidity of the current, we see at once that the plains about Hwuy-chow-foo must be a very considerable height above those of Hang-chow or Shanghai, which are only a few feet above the level of the sea.
The rocks in this part of the country are chiefly composed of Silurian slate, like that found in England, and resting upon it is a red calcareous sandstone similar to the new red sandstone of Europe. This sandstone has the effect of giving a reddish tinge to the barren hills, as it crumbles to pieces. I met with no fossil organic remains in these rocks, but my time and opportunities did not permit me to investigate them very minutely.
All these hills are very barren and wholly unsuited to the cultivation of the tea-shrub, and hence their geological formation can have little to do with the success which has attended its management on the plains. Their vegetable productions, however, depending as they do in a great measure upon climate, afford us some valuable information, and to these I paid particular attention.
The flora here has a northern character, that is, the genera common in England or in the northern parts of India are common, while those shrubs and trees which are met with only in tropical countries are entirely unknown. The only plant seen here which has any resemblance to those of the tropics is the species of palm which I have already noticed, but it seems much more hardy than any other variety of its race. A species of holly not unlike the English is common; and various species of the oak, the pine, and the juniper are also found in great abundance. The grasses, ferns, and other low-growing bushes and herbaceous plants of northern countries are here represented by various species of the same genera.
If we were to draw our conclusions from the flora of the country only, we should be apt to suppose that the tea-shrub might be successfully cultivated in some parts of Great Britain; but this would be erroneous. We must examine the climate as well as the soil and its natural productions, and thus obtain a view of the question in all its bearings.
Shanghae is the nearest place to the green-tea country at which observations that can be relied upon regarding climate have been made to any extent.
The following table, prepared in Shanghae (lat. 31° 20' N.) from daily observations with Newman's best maximum and minimum thermometers, will give the requisite information as regards temperature :—
It is necessary to state, in connection with these observations on temperature, that the winter of