The legend of the eighteen imperial tea trees in Longjing

The legend of the eighteen imperial tea trees in Longjing

The legend of the eighteen imperial tea trees in Longjing is a captivating tale that highlights the cultural and historical significance of Longjing tea, one of China's most prized green teas.

Origin of the Legend: The story dates back to the 18th century during the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty, who was known for his deep appreciation of Chinese arts and culture, including tea.

Emperor Qianlong’s Visit: On one of his many visits to the southern regions of China, Emperor Qianlong traveled to Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, where the scenic West Lake and its surrounding tea plantations are located. It was here, in the village of Longjing (Dragon Well), that the emperor encountered the tea bushes that would become legendary.

The Imperial Designation: While touring the tea plantations near West Lake, Emperor Qianlong was so impressed by the method of hand-pressing the tea leaves and the exceptional quality of the tea produced that he decided to pick the leaves himself. Moved by the beauty of the area and the exquisite tea, he designated the eighteen tea bushes from which he picked the leaves as "Imperial Tea Trees."

Significance of the Eighteen Trees: From then on, the leaves harvested from these eighteen bushes were reserved exclusively for the imperial family. The tea became a highly valued tribute tea, sent to the Forbidden City as a symbol of the finest produce of the region.

Cultural Impact: This story has elevated the status of Longjing tea, contributing to its reputation as the "Queen of Green Tea." The area around the eighteen trees, located near the Hu Gong Temple under Shifeng Mountain, has become a site of historical interest and a testament to Longjing tea's enduring legacy in Chinese tea culture.

Preservation and Legacy: Today, the legend of the eighteen imperial tea trees continues to captivate tea enthusiasts and tourists alike. The site is preserved as a cultural heritage, symbolizing the rich history of Longjing tea and its association with Chinese imperial tradition. The legend not only highlights the cultural importance of tea in China but also showcases the historical interaction between Chinese rulers and the exquisite arts of tea cultivation and preparation.