HC SVNT DRACONES

THE STORY OF TEA

An ELIXIR is an alchemical substance intended to prolong life and confer immortality. Eluding emperors and philosophers for millennia, it has always existed in the mundane world. The elixir is not an unobtainable treasure; it is a universal panacea.

Tea plays a significant role in the physical, cultural, and spiritual realms of human existence. It represents a plant ~ human symbiotic relationship emerging from prehistory to arrive in the present, each leaf and bud the outward expression of a root that penetrates deeply into the mysterious origins of human consciousness.

坤輿萬國全圖
Kunyu wanguo quantu
‘Map of the Myriad Countries of the World’ 

Matteo Ricci
circa. 1604

HC SVNT DRACONES

THE STORY OF TEA

An ELIXIR is an alchemical substance intended to prolong life and confer immortality. Eluding emperors and philosophers for millennia, it has always existed in the mundane world. The elixir is not an unobtainable treasure; it is a universal panacea.

Tea plays a significant role in the physical, cultural, and spiritual realms of human existence. It represents a plant ~ human symbiotic relationship emerging from prehistory to arrive in the present, each leaf and bud the outward expression of a root that penetrates deeply into the mysterious origins of human consciousness.

坤輿萬國全圖
Kunyu wanguo quantu
‘Map of the Myriad
Countries of the
World’

Matteo Ricci
circa. 1604

If you want to know the location of the river source which produces the herb, it is just in the southwest, its original homeland.

The Secret of the
Golden Flower

If you want to know the location of the river source which produces the herb, it is just in the southwest, its original homeland.

The Secret of the
Golden Flower

China has been described as the mother of gardens. And, in the center of that garden, there is the tea tree. In the far southwest of China, the Lancang River flows from Himalayan headwaters, eroding perilous gorges on its spectacular descent towards Southeast Asia to become the mighty Mekong, Mother of Waters . Here, preserved within subtropical forests, we encounter the remote origins of tea, agroforestry plantations established by the ancestors of indigenous Palaungic language-speakers. Present-day communities of Wa, Bulang and De’ang, along with several other ethnic communities, continue to steward these biodiverse gardens, some passed down through ancestral inheritance for a millennium or more.

At the heart of the Jingmai Mountains, atop Mangjing Village’s highest peak, stands the Tea Spirit Platform (chahuntai 茶魂台), an axis mundi around which revolves the ceremonial life and cultural identity of this Bulang community. These mountains, newly inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are home to some of the world’s oldest tea gardens.

If you want to know the location of the river source which produces the herb, it is just in the southwest, its original homeland.

The Secret of the
Golden Flower

China has been described as the mother of gardens. And, in the middle of that garden, there is the tea tree. In the far southwest of China, the Lancang River flows from Himalayan headwaters, eroding perilous gorges on its spectacular descent towards Southeast Asia to become the mighty Mekong, Mother of Waters . Here, preserved within subtropical forests, we encounter the remote origins of tea, agroforestry gardens established by the ancestors of indigenous Mon-Khmer language-speakers. Present-day communities of Wa, Bulang and De’ang, along with several other ethnic communities, steward these biodiverse gardens, some having been passed down through ancestral inheritance for a millennium or more.

At the heart of the Jingmai Mountains, atop Mangjing Village’s highest peak, stands the Tea Spirit Platform (chahuntai 茶魂台), an axis mundi around which revolves the ceremonial life and cultural identity of this Bulang community. These mountains, newly inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are home to some of the world’s oldest tea gardens.

If you want to know the
location of the river source
which produces the herb,
it is just in the southwest,
its original homeland.

The Secret of the
Golden Flower


Every Spring & Autumn, seasonal flushes fulfill the promise of Bulang tea ancestor Paya Alaung, ensuring cultural continuity and a market supplement to an otherwise subsistence lifestyle. For the majority of villagers, ninety percent of their annual income is procured during the month-long spring harvest. With the arrival of rains in mid- to late-March, shrubs and trees awaken and the entire mountain effloresces. Every able body labors from early morning until late in the evening to ensure that plucking and processing is carried out in a timely manner.

The Theravada New Year arrives between first and second flushes, during which time villagers also honor Paya Alaung with the Tea Ancestor Festival. These concurrent events represent the syncretic belief system of the local people, an admixture of animism and Buddhism. They take place over three days, villagers busying themselves each morning with preparations before engaging in long days of prayers, offerings and festivities. The additional labor expended in ceremony and celebration has a rejuvenating effect, lifting the spirits of participants, conveying them through the remaining weeks of harvest.

茶魂台
Tea Spirit Platform
Jingmai Mountains,
Mangjing Village


Every Spring & Autumn, seasonal flushes fulfill the promise of Bulang tea ancestor Paya Alaung, ensuring cultural continuity and a market supplement to an otherwise subsistence lifestyle. For many villagers, ninety percent of their annual income is procured during the month-long spring harvest. With the arrival of rains in mid- to late-March, shrubs and trees awaken and the entire mountain effloresces. Every able body labors from morning until night to ensure that plucking and processing is carried out in a timely manner.

The Theravada New Year arrives between first and second flushes, during which time villagers also honor Paya Alaung with the Tea Ancestor Festival. These concurrent events represent the syncretic belief system of the local people, an admixture of animism and Buddhism. They take place over three days, villagers busying themselves each morning with preparations before engaging in long days of prayers, offerings and festivities. The additional labor expended in ceremony and celebration has a rejuvenating effect, lifting the spirits of participants, conveying them through the remaining weeks of harvest.

茶魂台
Tea Spirit Platform
Jingmai Mountains,
Mangjing Village

茶魂台
Tea Spirit Platform
Jingmai Mountains,
Mangjing Village

Tea traveling out of these remote hills is imbued with ecological, cultural & spiritual potency. It flows from mountains to valleys, rural outposts to urban centers, spreading throughout the empire. In the Tang Dynasty, tea establishes itself as a quintessential substance, becoming a potent symbol of Chinese culture. It gradually expands beyond the borders of that civilization over the following millennium before experiencing a widespread dispersal throughout the world beginning in the 17th century. To follow this movement of tea is to trace a ritual continuity emerging from ancient primary forests to shine its light into the present:

桑康节 / 茶祖节
Sankang Festival & Tea
Ancestor Celebration,
Mangjing Village

桑康节 / 茶祖节
Sankang Festival & Tea
Ancestor Celebration,
Mangjing Village

THEA, daughter of Uranus and Gaia, Sky and Earth; also known as EURYPHAESSA, wide-shining, mother of Helios the sun, Selene the moon, and Eos the dawn

Θεα

Εὐρυφάεσσα

THEA, daughter of Uranus and Gaia, Sky and Earth; also known as EURYPHAESSA, wide-shining, mother of Helios the sun, Selene the moon, and Eos the dawn

Θεα Εὐρυφάεσσα

Θεα
Εὐρυφάεσσα

THEA, daughter of Uranus and Gaia, sky and earth;
also known as EURYPHAESSA, wide-shining, mother
of Helios the sun, Selene the moon, and Eos the dawn

Tea has emerged from prehistory to arrive in the present, a global ritual substance enjoyed with varying degrees of ceremony. It offers moments of solitary repose and sublime encounter, a form of quiet contemplation and gentle hospitality practiced throughout the world. Moreover, tea is an ethical substance, tacitly touching upon many themes preoccupying the planet today, from biodiversity conservation to social harmony to climate resilience. All of this and more in its quest to preserve the dynamic balance between heaven, earth, and humanity.

Theasophie is praxis, daily engaged in the work of inner cultivation and collective worldmaking. It is also storytelling – interweaving indigenous knowledge, comparative mythology, early modern alchemical treatises, history of medicine, and the literature of tea in order to consider perennial questions of the vital body, and its place in the cosmos. Distilling these ideas and considering them in light of a fully embodied tea practice reveals the path of tea and the quest for the elixir to be compellingly similar projects.

Pavo muticus, the green peafowl, an endangered species located in parts of Yunnan Province and mainland & maritime Southeast Asia

Pavo muticus, the green peafowl, an endangered species located in parts of Yunnan Province and mainland & maritime Southeast Asia

Tea has emerged from prehistory to arrive in the present, a global ritual substance enjoyed with varying degrees of ceremony. It offers moments of solitary repose and sublime encounter, a form of quiet contemplation and gentle hospitality practiced throughout the world. Moreover, tea tacitly touches upon many themes preoccupying the planet today, ranging from biodiversity conservation to social harmony to climate adaptation. All of this and more in its quest to preserve the dynamic balance between heaven, earth, and humanity.

Theasophie is praxis, daily engaged in the work of inner cultivation and collective worldmaking. It is also storytelling – interweaving indigenous knowledge, comparative mythology, early modern alchemical treatises, history of medicine, and the literature of tea in order to consider perennial questions of the vital body and its place in the cosmos. Distilling these ideas and considering them in light of a fully embodied tea practice reveals the path of tea and the quest for the elixir to be compellingly similar projects.

Pavo muticus, the green peafowl, an endangered species located in parts of Yunnan Province and mainland & maritime Southeast Asia