THEASOPHIE is a collaboration between nature and humanity. Our roots penetrate deep into the soils of Yunnan’s ancient tea forests and are cultivated by a multiethnic community of tea farmers, enriched by a diversity of languages, lifeways, and worldviews. These relationships radiate outward into regional and international communities motivated by ecological and cultural approaches to social practice and the universal aspirations of tea.

The following individuals guide, inspire, and worke alongside us, imparting depth of wisdom and generosity of spirit. They represent a community of practice united in their commitment to Yunnan’s diverse ethnicities and ecosystems. This is our way of connecting global tea culture to the inner life of practice in the tea mountains of southwest China. We honor each of their journeys and dedicate ourselves to the continuance of this shared path.

岩温南 AI WENNAN was born in 1950 into Bulang ethnicity Lao Man’e Village, the oldest village in the Bulang Mountains with an estimated history of nearly 1,400 years. After a traditional monastic education, he returned to secular life and became the first county administrator of the Bulang Mountains. He oversaw social development projects while also functioning as a ritual practitioner, traveling extensively from village to village, gaining an intimate knowledge of the cultural topography of the Bulang Mountains. Eventually, Ai Wennan relocated to Menghai and served as Religious Affairs liaison for the Dai and Bulang ethnic communities. He remains active in his retirement, offering ritual guidance, teaching traditional Bulang music and storytelling, and inspiring the younger generations to preserve and promote their cultural heritage.

苏国文 SU GUOWEN is Mangjing Village headman and Yimu’s great-uncle. His family story is legendary in Pu’er tea culture. Su Guowen’s father, Su Liya, traveled to Beijing in the founding years of modern China, carrying a gift of tribute tea for Mao Zedong. Years later, he delivered the Jingmai Mountain Bulang community through the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution and dedicated his life to the revitalization of his people. Su Guowen returned to the mountain after a career as an educator in order to continue his father’ work. It was at his encouragement that we initiated our Bulang manuscript project. We are currently working on a translation of Su Guowen’s book, Mangjing Bulang & Tea (芒景布朗族与茶). Now in his 80’s, Su Guowen continues to perform a vital role in his community.

王国祥 WANG GUOXIANG was born in 1937. During his career, he was affiliated with both the Yunnan Provincial Literature and History Institute and Yunnan Academy of Social Science. Professor Wang is the foremost non-Bulang scholar of the Bulang people, known and loved by that entire community for a lifetime of dedication towards understanding and sharing their culture. Professor Wang took Theasophie under his wing the first time they met, offering up a pile of reading material and a research strategy within the first ten minutes of that encounter. We had the distinct honor of escorting Professor Wang on what was likely his final research trip through several Bulang villages, revisiting places and people, some of whom he had not seen in decades. Wang Guoxiang, more than anyone else, understands and shares Theasophie’s commitment and affection towards the Bulang people.

Theasophie is connecting the international community to the inner life of practice in the tea mountains of southwest China.

Theasophie is connecting the international community to the inner life of practice in the tea mountains of southwest China.

尹绍亭 YIN SHAOTING is emeritus professor of anthropology and former director of Yunnan University’s Museum of Anthropology. He is one of the foremost scholars on the agricultural practices, material culture and intangible cultural heritage of Yunnan Province’s numerous ethnicities. His book, People and Forests: Yunnan Swidden Agriculture in Human-Ecological Perspective, was seminal in changing negative perceptions of indigenous agroforestry practices and emphasizing the value of traditional ecological knowledge. His multisited Yunnan Ethnic Cultural Ecology Village project, funded by the Ford Foundation and enacted in five villages, provided a successful working model for promoting socio-economic development while preserving the cultural continuity of ethnic communities.

陳劍 CHEN JIAN first entered Xishuangbanna’s tea mountains in 1999, by which time he had already been drinking and collecting Pu’er tea for several years. He spent the next decade becoming intimately acquainted with the old-growth tea forests and proficient in all aspects of artisanal Pu’er production, developing his own brand, Yunhaizhidian, while producing private label teas for many well-known figures in the mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Chen Jian accepted Brian as a formal apprentice in 2006. They lived and worked side-by-side every Spring & Autumn for ten years, during which time they hosted countless visitors from all over the world. In the off-season, they were based out of Yunhaizhidian Classical Teahouse in Kunming, while traveling extensively throughout China promoting Yunnan tea culture.

雷平陽 LEI PINGYANG is the wandering poet of China’s southwest tea mountains. His writings have appeared as Pu’er Chronicle (Pu’er ji), Yunnan Chronicle (Yunnan ji) and Tea Spirit in the Mountains: Menghai Chronicle (Chashen zai shanshang: menghai pu’ercha ji) – just a few titles in a prolific publishing career. We first befriended Lei Pingyang in 2007 and, since that time, have passed countless hours together in the mountains, at his Kunming studio, and at the teahouse. He has extended our gaze beyond its limitations, his words invoking subtle essences that lie beneath the surface of ordinary experience. Theasophie has an active practice of reading and translating Lei Pingyang’s poetry in anticipation of one day bringing it to a Western audience. Read our translation of his Chazhe poem here.

李旻果 LI MINGUO and family have dedicated their lives to promoting the biodiversity of Yunnan’s subtropical forests. With her husband, the late German biologist Dr. Josef Margraf, and their two daughters, she has championed ‘rainforestation’ and promoted environmental awareness throughout China. She is the founder of TianZi Biodiversity Research & Development Center, a conservation organization whose activities range from endangered orchid conservation to national and international strategic partnerships to bring greater awareness to Yunnan Province’s rich tapestry of biodiversity. Josef Margraf was an outstanding scientist who subscribed to a conjoint East~West hermetic worldview. Theasophie’s understanding of tea and biodiversity has been greatly enriched by this family.

尹仑 YIN LUN is the son of Yin Shaoting and an eminent scholar in his own right. He is a professor at Southwest Forestry University and director of the Center for Ecological Civilization in Kunming, Yunnan. His research focuses on traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and indigenous responses to environmental concerns such as natural resource utilization and climate change. He believes that the resiliency of ecosystems and the communities that steward them is interconnected and advocates for intergenerational knowledge as essential in developing and implementing conservation and development strategies. Professor Yin is also committed to cross-cultural dialogue, working tirelessly to make his own work and that of his colleagues and students available outside of China.

张海 ZHANG HAI is a visual anthropologist at Yunnan University’s Museum of Anthropology. He has spent nearly twenty years documenting Yunnan Province’s ethnicities and is especially interested in youth culture and intergenerational transfers of cultural identity in the midst of rapid social change. Professor Zhang has been with Theasophie since the beginning, accompanying us in 2006 during our first visit to Xishuangbanna’s tea mountains. We have collaborated on several projects together throughout the greater Bulang community. His contributions to our digital archive and conjoint efforts in preserving Bulang cultural heritage are invaluable.

Theasophie is committed to East ~ West knowledge exchange and is active in promoting tea culture, healing arts and the emergent field of spiritual ecology. In the United States, our work benefits greatly from many in the Chinese medicine community. We would especially like to thank the following individuals for guidance and support. They serve as inspirations in our efforts towards affirming the relationship between ecological and human health, promoting transcultural dialogue, and bridging the world’s wisdom traditions.

HEINER FRUEHAUF was born into a family of medical doctors specializing in natural healing. He earned a doctoral degree in East Asian Languages and Civilizations prior to pursuing Chinese medicine at Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. During that time, he sought out the classical roots of Chinese medicine outside of the institutional setting, learning within several healing lineages and transmitting these to the West. He is founding professor of the College of Classical Chinese Medicine at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) and founder of Classical Pearls Herbal Formulas. Doctor Fruehauf’s most recent project is The Healing Order, a holistic healthcare sanctuary located in an historical inn overlooking the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, a manifestation of his belief that 21st-century humans can, and must, support their health in harmony with nature.

Z’EV ROSENBERG is recognized as one of the first generation practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine in the United States. He is an emeritus professor at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM), where he taught for 23 years, has lectured widely throughout the U.S., and published extensively on East Asian medicine. Doctor Rosenberg has over fifty years of experience in modalities ranging from macrobiotics to shiatsu, Chinese medicine and herbalism. He practices what he calls Chinese Ecological Medicine, which considers humanity’s position between heaven and earth, the disequilibriums occurring within the macrocosmic order and the microcosmic body, and how these determine wellness. Cultivating and preserving harmony between heaven, earth, and human (tian di ren) is the basis of this medicine and foundational to the flourishing of life.

SABINE WILMS is the author and translator of more than a dozen books on Chinese medicine, including the Divine Farmer’s Classic of Materia Medica (Shennong Bencao Jing), translation with discussion of the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic (Huangdi Nei Jing Suwen) chapter five, and various materials from the eminent historical physician and ethicist Sun Simiao. In addition to writing, translating, and publishing, she mentors students and lectures around the world. While known for her historically and culturally sensitive approach to Chinese Medicine, Professor Wilms also recognizes it as a contemporary, vital, and necessary response to the issues of our modern times. Her work flows from a lifelong commitment to the ‘Dao of Nurturing Life’ (養生之道), which she practices as a scholar-farmer, stewarding her animals and gardens on a small patch of land in the Pacific Northwest.

JUSTIN PENOYER is a distinguished clinician in Chinese medicine and a historian of Early China. His clinical practice skillfully blends patient-centered, evidence-based approaches with the ancient philosophical doctrines of daoshu and the Huangdi Neijing Lingshu. Committed to independent scholarship, Doctor Penoyer immerses himself in scholarly research, particularly exploring the intersections of systems biology, ecological medicine, and early Chinese history. Originating from a small family farm in the Driftless Region of the American Midwest, he now oversees Three Hawk Ridge, a farmette dedicated to cultivating American wild-simulated ginseng. This combination of grounded pragmatism, academic depth, and clinical expertise equips him to provide holistic care that adeptly merges the Techniques of the Way with contemporary medical practices.