Chinese tea appeared in Russia, dating back to the Chongzhen period of the Ming Dynasty. At that time, a mission from Russia, led by Vasily Starkov, entered the territory of Altan Khan. The latter entertained distinguished guests with Chinese tea, which was the first time the Russians had tasted tea. Below: The samovar invented by blacksmiths in the Urals is widely used by Russians as a tool for making tea, so the city of Sukson in the Urals is called “the hometown of samovars”.
The Wanli Tea Ceremony is another important international trade route emerging in the Eurasian continent after the Silk Road. In 2020, substantial progress has been made in the “application” of Wanli Tea Ceremony, and the text of the preliminary list of “application for application” was officially submitted to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage. The Wanli Tea Ceremony is a way of blending civilizations, one end is the traditional Chinese agricultural civilization, and the other end is the modern industrial civilization of the West. Their collision and exchange not only made modern China take an important step towards integrating with the global economy, but also enlightened the present and left valuable information for the Belt and Road Initiative.
Pieces of tea leaves are plucked from tea trees in Xiamei Village, Wuyi Mountain, Fujian, and dried for 3 weeks to make rectangular tea cakes, which are later called brick tea. The color of these high-quality black hair tea soup is like amber and the aroma is like mushroom flowers, which can help gastrointestinal digestion, promote human metabolism, and supplement vitamins and trace elements. In Northwest China, where vegetables are lacking, brick tea can dissolve excess fat from milk and meat. The Russians also discovered its importance, and the demand for tea increased day by day.
So a trade road winds its way to the north. Tea from Xiamei Village of Wuyi Mountain in Fujian, Anhua Town in Hunan and Yangloudong in Chibi, Hubei, etc., passes through the water gate in Chong’an County, Fujian Province, and enters Yanshan County, Jiangxi Province, where it is shipped to Shunxin River under Poyang Lake, and exits Jiujiang Estuary and enters the Yangtze River , go up the river to Hankou, turn Hanshui to Fancheng (Xiangfan), go through Henan Shengqi Town (Sheqi Town), Luoyang to Zezhou (Shanxi Jincheng), pass Lu’an (Changzhi) to Pingyao, Qixian, Taigu, Xin County, through Datong, Tianzhen to Zhangjiakou, across the grassland to Kulun (Ulaanbaatar), after 5,000 kilometers, imported Qiaktu, and finally sold to Central Asia and Europe from Qiaktu.
This trip is divided into three parts: waterway, car road and camel road. Among them, the road from Zhangjiakou to Qiaktu is the most difficult – through the desert and the Gobi. Unexpectedly, the hot and dry climate of the Mongolian Plateau made the taste of brick tea better, which was very popular with drinkers, and the Wanli Tea Ceremony was formed. Why is the Wanli Tea Ceremony so famous in history? It was initiated by the well-known Shanxi merchant group and has experienced changes from the handicraft workshop era in feudal society to modern industrial capitalism. Its existence once led to the extensive integration of various civilizations in the Eurasian continent, and gave birth to a huge economic belt.
small town chaktu
Qiaktu is located on the east bank of the Selenga River, which means “where there is tea” in Russian. As a port, Kyaktu has a unique geographical location. It connects Kulun in the south (now Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia) and reaches Ujinsk in the north (now Ulan-Ude, Russia). Shanxi merchants from China sold tea here, and the Russian merchants who got the goods followed the traditional passage of the Selenge Valley, through the commercial center of the Baikal region to Upper Uginsk and Irkutsk, and then all the way westward. Shipping to the European part of Russia.
The famous proverb on the Wanli Tea Ceremony, “He comes with skin, I return with tea”, refers to the mutual market policy of the Qing Dynasty—exchanging Chinese tea for Russian fur, woolen cloth, blankets, etc.
In the 18th century, due to the increasing frequency of Sino-foreign trade exchanges and the continuous occurrence of people’s anti-Qing uprisings, the Qing court restricted foreign trade, mainly implementing sea bans, while tea, which was popular in Europe, was not included in the ban, and gradually became a mainstream trade commodity.
In 1727, China and Russia signed the “Treaty of Kyaktu”, allowing Russian businessmen to conduct sporadic trade at the junction of the two countries, and the Sino-Russian Kyaktu mutual market began.
Today, in the Kyaktu Museum, there are still a large number of cultural relics and historical materials about the Sino-Russian tea trade, among which there are many traces of Chinese tea merchants: there are 3 pieces of Chinese brick tea donated by local tea merchants, of which the variety is rare, and one of them is printed on it. With the word “Feng”. In Hankou, there used to be a famous SF brick tea factory, which was established by the Russian businessman Litvinov. Brick teas produced in Hankou more than 120 years ago are displayed in the display cabinet. The brand names of the Hankou Russian Brick Tea Factory, such as “Xintai” and “Fuchang”, are clearly visible on the brick tea.
Today, Kyaktu, with a population of less than 20,000, has almost no tea trade, and the tea the locals drink is wholesaled from Moscow. At present, the trade between Chiaktu and China is mainly based on Chinese fruits. The tallest buildings in the city are two Orthodox churches, and the dwellings in the city are low.
In the late 18th century, Russian merchants made up to 300% of their profits from tea. By the middle of the 19th century, Kyaktu’s annual trade turnover was more than 10 million US dollars. But soon, a series of unequal treaties brought about by the Opium Wars devastated the Kyaktu trade. Russian businessmen can go deep into the Chinese mainland to directly purchase, produce and sell tea.
In 1863, the first Russian brick tea factory appeared in Hankou. The tea factory adopts the industrialized large-scale tea-making method, and the tea is of high quality and low price. Russian merchants are also allowed to ship tea by sea, which is obviously faster than that of Shanxi merchants.
At the same time, Russian businessmen were allowed to enter the flags of China and Mongolia for trade without paying taxes. The Chinese merchants in the unequal trading relationship are almost unprofitable, and gradually fade out of the border trade. The once prosperous Shanxi merchant group is helplessly declining. After that, the Northwest Trade Route was opened up, and Kyaktu was no longer the only trade port on the Sino-Russian land route. In 1903, the whole line of the Middle East Railway was completed, and Heilongjiang became the main trading port between China and Russia. Later, with the independence of Mongolia, the Wanli Tea Ceremony was discontinued.
Looking back at the prosperous Wanli Tea Ceremony trade, those who were the leading trader were the Shanxi merchants who once occupied half of China’s commerce with their salt business and ticket numbers.
Today, in Chewang Village, Dongyang Town, 17.5 kilometers southwest of Yuci County, Shanxi Province, there is a quaint Shanxi merchant compound. In Shanxi, where the ground is full of cultural relics, there are many magnificent or huge commercial courtyards. This deep house, which is called the “Chang’s Courtyard”, is not outstanding. However, the former owner of the compound, Chang Wanda, is not an ordinary person. He is the first person in China’s trade with Russia.
Shanxi merchants have dominated the business world for more than 500 years, ranking first in the country’s business gangs. In the Qing Dynasty, the top 16 big financial groups in the country were all in Shanxi. In the Wanli Tea Ceremony, there are only a few giants like Chang Wanda who have stirred up waves in the long river of history. Most Shanxi merchants are just the dust of history, unknown, and even died of old age. The “Guhong Temple” in Zhangjiakou City, also known as the “Lone Soul Temple”, is the burial place and memorial place of Shanxi merchants who died in other places. After the group of Shanxi merchants grew, they did not move towards modern capitalization and industrialization, but remained complacent, which must be said to be a pity.
Chayuan Xiamei Village
Xiamei Village in Wuyi Mountain, Fujian is an ancient village prospered by tea. In the old days, boats full of tea set off from here. The caravan traveled thousands of miles and went through hardships to transport the tea to Chaktu. Xiamei Village was the starting point of this thousands of miles of tea ceremony. Today, there are still countless tea ceremony legends circulating in Xiamei Village.
In 1861, according to the Sino-Russian Treaty of Beijing and the Sino-Russian Land Trade Regulations, the tea market in Hankou was opened to the outside world, and merchants from Britain, Russia, Japan, Germany and other countries entered Hankou one after another. In order to pay for the funds needed for the bulk tea trade, these foreign businessmen must first open their own foreign banks and banks in Hankou before they can draw huge capital and enter the Chinese tea market. Before 1891, there were 32 foreign firms operating in Hankou. By the beginning of the 20th century, there were more than 100 foreign firms in Hankou, making it the second largest financial and business district in China after Shanghai.
Hankou Port, which is prosperous because of tea, has developed in urban planning, municipal construction and urban civilization. There are still many old buildings over a hundred years old in the five-nation concession area of Hankou, which records the early urbanization process of the city.
The appearance of Chinese tea in Russia can be traced back to the Chongzhen period of the Ming Dynasty. At that time, a mission from Russia, led by Vasily Starkov, entered the territory of Altan Khan. The latter entertained distinguished guests with Chinese tea, which was the first time the Russians had tasted tea.
Facing the fragrant, slightly bitter and sweet soup, Vasily Starkov did not know what it was. Before leaving, Altan Khan presented tea as a gift to the Russian envoy. After returning to St. Petersburg, Vasily Starkov dedicated the tea to the Russian Tsar, and the magical leaves from the East entered the Russian court since then.
In Russia, the habit of drinking tea gradually changed from the court nobles to the common people, especially the Siberians, who often mixed tea with cream, minced meat and salt. “Traveling in the Transbaikal Border Region” records the popularity of Chinese tea: “Brick tea is very widely consumed among the residents of the Transbaikal border region, and it is so necessary that it can often be used as silver. The Buryat people in Siberia, etc. Among the indigenous people, when selling goods, they would rather have brick tea than silver, because they are sure that brick tea can be used in place of silver in any place.”
French writer A de Gustin also wrote about the popularity of tea in Russia during this period. Popularity: “Even the poorest Russians have teapots and copper samovars in their homes, and families get together to drink tea every morning and evening… The simplicity of the country houses contrasts with the elegant and transparent beverages they drink. comparison.”
In Russia, drinking tea has become a part of people’s lives, and they are willing to spend money to enjoy the joy of drinking tea. Ordinary people drink tea 3 times a day: 5 am, 9 am and 5 pm, usually on weekdays, and even if alcohol is banned during Lent. Poor families often add other leaves of grass to the tea in order to save tea.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Chinese hospitality with tea was gradually integrated into Russian life. Russians think that drinking vodka makes you sleepy, but drinking tea keeps you awake. Unlike the Chinese and Japanese drinking habits of tea, the Russians began to add honey and sugar to the tea from the moment they came into contact with the tea. Popular refreshments include bagels, jams, preserves, and more. Pickled cucumbers were also a refreshment during this period. In the hearts of Russians, this was undoubtedly a shock on the tongue!
How common is tea in life? In the summer public garden party, people gather under the shade of the trees, and there is a steaming samovar on the small table; in the evening on the outskirts of Moscow, the gentleman will take the girl for a ride in a carriage, and when he is tired, he will find a chair on the circular field to sit down. Sip tea slowly; schools and nursing homes are also starting to offer tea.
Times have changed, and Shanxi merchants are no longer present on the Wanli Tea Ceremony. However, the tea from Wuyi Mountain is still exported to Russia through new transportation methods, and with the convenience of modern transportation, a new road for tea has been opened.
In Zabaikalsk in the 1850s, the temperature was often below minus 35°C. When a traveler sleeps in the wild, he will dig a pit in the snow, put a bearskin coat on the bottom, then put a quilt on it, and build a bonfire at his feet. They also carry tea with them on such a arduous journey. In the morning, the traveler who got out of the snow nest rushed towards the fire and the rolled teapot with lightning speed.
In order to save tea, the Russians invented a method of brewing tea multiple times. Later, “overnight tea” appeared, and some unscrupulous merchants even reprocessed the tea that had been brewed and sold it for the second time.
The samovar invented by blacksmiths in the Urals is widely used by Russians as a tool for making tea, so the city of Sukson in the Urals is called “the hometown of samovars”. It was the necessary place for Sino-Russian trade at that time. Due to the cold weather, businessmen and travelers who traveled long distances often visited the roadside to rest and drink tea to keep warm. In order to attract customers, the owner of the small shop improved the utensils for heating hot water and found a trick to keep the tea warm, and the samovar came into being. The reason why the samovar can keep warm is because there is a vertical hollow cylinder in the container, and the hot charcoal is put into it, and the tea is not easy to get cold.
In Russia in the 18th and 19th centuries, if she went to the house of a housewife who had just bought tea, she would rinse the teapot with hot boiling water, dry it quickly, then put the tea leaves, pour the boiling water, cover with a napkin, and put it on the Wait for 5 minutes on the samovar holder, then add a cube of sugar. At this time, the tea leaves are stretched out in the hot water, releasing minerals and trace elements. The housewife poured the freshly brewed strong tea into several cups, and then brought it to the samovar to refill the water. The strength will be determined according to the taste of the guests. In any case, make sure that the water in the samovar is always hot.
In Russia, the habit of drinking tea gradually changed from court nobles to commoners, especially Siberians, who often mixed tea with butter, minced meat and salt.
In Russia, a samovar is an essential utensil in every household.
This drinking method of adding boiled water to brewed strong tea may seem strange to Orientals, but Russians believe that the reason why tea is delicious is because of the added boiled water. The housewife may suggest that you drink “sweet tea” – either dissolve the sugar in the tea, or put a small piece of sugar in your mouth and dissolve it slowly with the tea. In the mouth, it can also be honey or homemade jam.
At that time, when China’s tea was sold to Russia, the price could be more than four times as high, and the profits were huge. Chang Wanda, a Shanxi merchant who saw the business opportunity, came to the Wuyishan tea area, and the first stop was Xiamei Village, ready to buy tea mountain and do tea trade.
The reason why Chang Wanda chose Xiamei Village in Wuyi Mountain was related to a river in the village. Using the Meixi waterway, tea can be transported to Chong’an County smoothly, which provides conditions for the final sale to Qaktu. In this way, Xiamei Village became the starting point of the Wanli Tea Ceremony.
After Chang Wanda came to Xiamei Village, he bought the nearby barren mountains and used it as a base to grow and make tea. He also chose a partner, the Zou family from Xiamei Village.
During the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty, Mr. Zou came to the tea trading market at the mouth of Jiangxi, where he planned to sell Wuyishan rock tea. At this time, Shanxi businessman Chang Wanda also came to the estuary to find a source of goods. After the two met, they fell in love very well. Starting with the Jinglong number, they started the tea trade cooperation for nearly 100 years.
Luxia Lane in Xiamei Village is the former site of Jinglong tea house. The tea house faces south, and the three characters “Jinglonghao” are engraved on the stone gate pillars. Not far from Luxia Lane is Jinglong Wharf, which is the dedicated wharf of Jinglong Tea House. Bamboo rafts loaded with goods are launched directly from the pier and enter the Meixi waterway, reaching all directions. At that time, the Zou family also invested heavily in the renovation of the south and north slopes of Dangxi in Xiamei Village, and built a wharf along the Dangxi to facilitate the transportation of tea by water.
Today, people still use traditional methods to make tea in the streets and lanes of Xiamei Village. The roasted cage shakes the tea room, and the fragrance gradually overflows. After the tea maker shakes it gently, put it in the iron pot and stir fry it at high temperature, the aroma will be stronger, and it can be fried in a moment. This scene has attracted many tourists. Compared with many factories where machine-made tea is made, traditional hand-made tea is more attractive to buyers.
I once heard from the villagers of Xiamei Village that there is a “Tianyi Well” that was the place where the tea was fought and the price of spring tea was judged. During the Qing Dynasty, whenever spring tea was on the market, merchants who came to Wuyi Mountain to sell tea would fight tea beside this well to determine the price of tea in that year.
The tea in Xiamei Village is loaded on bamboo rafts from Jinglong Wharf, along the Meixi waterway to Chong’an County, and thus embarks on the Wanli Tea Ceremony. After entering the Central Plains, Shanxi merchants unloaded tea from ships and transported them by mules and carts. After passing through Henan Fangcheng, Lushan, Baofeng, Ruzhou, Dengfeng, Yanshi and other places, it arrived at Mengjin Ferry on the south bank of the Yellow River. Boats carry tea across the natural dangers of the Yellow River and unload at the shore dock. After reloading, take the canyon between Taihang Mountain and Wangwu Mountain from Jiyuan County, continue north to Zezhou and Changzhi, exit Shangdang Mountains, and enter Jinzhong area from Zihongkou.
After entering Jindi, these tea merchants are considered to have returned to their hometowns. They will branch here, or go to Qixian, or go to Taigu, come to their own business to wash the dust and enjoy the joy of family affairs, and forget about the hardships and dangers of the road for the time being.
After a few days of rest, I changed the truck again and set off. All the way through Yanmen Pass, Shanyin, Youyu, to Shahukou to Guihua (Hohhot). The other way goes through Ying County and Datong, and arrives at Zhangjiakou, an important town in Saishang, which is also a transit point for many Shanxi merchants. After that, he set off from Zhangjiakou, passed through naturalization, crossed the wasteland and desert, and reached the border port of Qiaktu. Tea began to be sold in the Kyaktu market, or exchanged for Russian fur, woolen cloth, or silver. Since then, Russian businessmen have relayed the tea route and trafficked in Russia. Via Ulan-Ude, Irkutsk, Tulum, Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, Omtsk, Tyumen, Yekaterinburg, Kungur, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Moscow, and finally arrives End point in St. Petersburg.
From Xiamei Village to Chiaktu, the total distance is about 5,000 kilometers. Such a long journey has put forward higher requirements for the shelf life of tea in the state of transportation, which also directly affects the tea-making method of Shanxi merchants in Xiamei Village of Wuyi Mountain. Bulk tea was originally sold to Russia, but due to the long distances and changing climates, the quality of the bulk tea could not be guaranteed. So tea merchants made tea into oval tea cakes, which were called hat box tea at that time. In order to be more convenient for transportation, the oval tea cake was modified into a rectangular shape, which is the later brick tea.
After the mid-18th century, tea from Wuyi Mountain in China became the first commodity traded with Russia. Speransky, the governor of Siberia, once said to the Russian businessmen who traded in the Kyaktu market: “The era when Russia needs Chinese silk fabrics is over, and cotton is almost over. What remains is tea, tea, or tea.”
Russia The huge demand for tea has changed the cultivation of tea in Wuyi Mountain. In order to meet the needs of the Russian market, tea farmers began to adjust the structure of tea planting. As a result, the leafy shrub tea trees became the most planted tea tree varieties in Wuyi Mountain at that time. They had no obvious trunk, dense branches and fast growth.
The tea ceremony, which spanned across Eurasia, was transformed in 1905. At that time, the Siberian Railway was opened to traffic, and tea had a more convenient and fast transportation method. The tea from Hankou is transported to Shanghai via the Yangtze River, loaded into a sea vessel at the Shanghai terminal and transported to Vladivostok (Vladivostok), and then transported to the whole territory of Russia from the Siberian Railway.
Times have changed, and Shanxi merchants are no longer present on the Wanli Tea Ceremony. However, the tea from Wuyi Mountain is still exported to Russia through new transportation methods, and with the convenience of modern transportation, a new tea road has been opened.
If you come to Xiamei Village, you will see that people here still grow, make and sell tea. With the fragrance of tea overflowing, hold up the teacup and listen carefully to the stories of the past and the feelings of the present from the villagers…