Legendary Five Mountains

 

The Five Ancient Tea Mountains

Five Mountains refers to the 5 ancient tea mountains of the Bǎi-Pú (Hundred Tribes, 百 濮) tea masters (originators of all tea culture and production, some 3,000- 4,000 years ago) in the Lín-Cāng Autonomous region, bordering Burma and China. This subtropical highland has more than 80, 000 ancient wild tea trees over 12, 000 acres with a history dating back more than 3,500 years., it is the largest, oldest and highest tea tree . With the highest concentration of ancient tea forests in the world, tea trees in this region are an average of 500-1000 years old. Lín-Cāng is also home to the world's oldest and largest living tea tree, believed to be 3,200 years old, in Lín-Cāng's Fèng-Qìng Xiàn(County). This tree has a diameter of 1.84 meters (6+ft) and height of 3.245 meters (10+ft). One 500 gram (1 lb) "cake" of compressed tea leaves from this tree has recently sold for over $40,000. This tree produces about 6 cakes annually. This ancient tea tree symbolizes the importance of biodiversity in growing and what the earth can produce when it is treated with respect. The region's difficult accessibility has provided the forest with natural protection from outsiders looking to use it for lumber or to clear ground to plant rubber trees. Local hill tribes though have coexisted in harmony with this place since prehistory by revering and protecting nature.

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world's oldest tea tree (3,200 years old), 6 ft diameter, growing in Feng'Qing, Lin'Cang

 

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Birthplace of Tea Trees

Glacial melt from the Himalayas winds down from the Tibetan Steppes to run through the Lan 'Xang valley Area in the heart of southeast Asia's high elevation rainforest. It was these perfect conditions that gave birth to the tea tree (camellia sinensis). These are prehisotirc trees whose ancestors existed before the last ice age. It was around 4,000 years ago they were first discovered by native tribes in a place known as the Five Ancient Tea Mountains.

 

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Mist rolling in throughout the day in the Lan'Xang valley of Lin'Cang, birthplace of tea and tea culture

 

White Eagle Mountain

Bai Ying Shān | Feng'Qing County, Lín-Cāng Autonomous Region

Great Snow Mountain

Dà-Xuě Shān | Yong'De, Lín-Cāng A.R.

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Great Fu Competition

Dà-Fu'Sai | Meng'ku, Lín-Cāng A.R.

Call of the Phoenix Mountain

Ming Feng Shān | Yong'De, Lín-Cāng A.R.

Bustling Foothill Mountain

Mang'Lu Shān | Ban'Dong, Lín-Cāng A.R.

 

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Sacred 5 Mountains of Asia

5 is a recurring theme in Eastern traditional science and spirituality, as in the 5 Elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water), the 5 cardinal directions (East, South, West, North & Center), and the System of 5 Phases. These are used to explain relationships in nature and the universe. Many East Asian countries reserve reverence for their own 5 Mountains which they honor as positive environmental places, here, one almost always finds temples and tea. It was in these places that the practice of Chá Dào (The Way of Tea) began.

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Interplay of the 5 elements | 山, shān, the Chinese character for "mountain" as used in the 5 Mountains seal

 

 

The Daoist 5 Mountains | Wǔ-Yuè, 五 嶽, China

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These mountains were chosen in accordance to the five cardinal directions of East Asian geomancy. These areas continue to be steeped in Daoism, Buddhism, martial arts, traditional medicine and tea growing.

 

East Great Mountain (Dōngyuè): Tranquil Mountain (Tài Shān, 泰山), Shān-Dōng Province. Represents sunrise, birth, and renewal. This has been a place of worship for at least 3,000 years and served as one of the most important ceremonial centers of China

South Great Mountain (Nányuè): Balancing Mountain (Héng Shān, 衡山), Hú-Nán Province. At the base of the mountain is the largest temple in southern China, the Grand Temple of Mount Heng (Nanyue Damiao). Here there are also many smaller Daoist and Buddhist temples.

West Great Mountain (Xīyuè): Splendid Mountain (Huà Shān, 华山), Shanxī Province. Another import place of spiritual pilgrimages with many Daoist temples and hermitages. This has traditionally been a famous place for the quest of immortality, as many special herbal medicines grow there.

North Great Mountain (Beiyuè): Permanent Mountain (Héng Shān, 恒山), Shānxī Province. This mountain has been considered a sacred mountain since the Zhou Dynasty. It was the most inaccesible of the five mountain in ancient times. The site has been used since the 2nd century BCE and features the Daoist Beiyuè temple and the famed Hanging Monastery built into the cliff-side with elements of Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism.

Center Great Mountain (Zhōngyuè): Lofty Mountain (Sōng Shān, 嵩山), Hénán Province. The mountain contains the legendary Zhongyue Daoist temple, one of the earliest, as well as a renown Buddhist temple Shaolin, considered the birthplace of Zen Buddhism. The mountain has many other Taoist and Buddhist monasteries within its forests.

The Five Elements Mountains | Ngũ Hành Sơn, Vietnam

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Five marble and limestone hills on the south central coast of Vietnam named after the 5 elements of nature. These mountains feed the rivers that water the valleys downstream that grow tea.These mountains feature cave temples with tunnels and buddhist sanctuaries.

 

The Five Treasures of the Snow | Kangchen Dzö-nga, Sikkim

KanchenjungaThe third highest mountain peak of the world on the Sikkim and Nepal border. It still remains unexplored in spite of attempts, being harder to explore than Everest. The five treasures; gold, silver, gems, grains, and holy books are said to be the repositories of heaven. This mountain can be seen atop Tiger Hill in the Darjeeling (Dorje-Ling) Tea Area as in the photograph below.

 

Sun, Moon & Five Mountains | Irwolgonryundo, Gyeongbok Palace, Seoul, Korea

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Irworobongdo, which means Sun, Moon & Five Mountains was a large folding screen featuring ancient symbolism for the ying yang principal and the five elements. This screen sat behind the throne of of the royal family during the Joseon Dynasty and eventually became their Dynasty's icon. This early screen later influenced the Korea flag introduced by the Joseon.

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Korean Flag (Traditionally, the four trigrams are related to the Five Elements) & the Royal Emblem of Joseon

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The Five Mountain System of Zen

The term mountain in this context refers to a temple or monastery because they were typically built in reclusive mountains. This system started in India between 750-1174 and included a cooperative of five great Buddhist universities Vikramasila, Nalanda, Somapura, Odantapur, and Jaggadala. With the teachings of of Mahayana Buddhism came the ancient term Dhyana, sanskrit for meditation. During the Song dynasty the teachings and practice for Dhyana became collectively known as was known as Chán, which was pronounced as Zen by the Cantonese then the Japanese. The Five Mountains (temples/monasteries) System was later used in Southern China to promote Chán, then Zen in Japan. The Five Great Mountains (temples) of Japan began in Kamakura, another five were named in the Kyoto area. These temples served as centers of learning and culture of Rinzai (Linji) school of Zen which were based off the teachings of the Chinese Zen Maser Linji Yixuan. The Rinzai monks and nuns created much for Japanese cultural arts such as calligraphy, painting, literature, tea ceremony, garden design, architecture and martial arts. Green tea, popular in China during the Song Dynasty (9th century) was brought in seeds to Japan by Myōan Eisai , a Japanese Buddhist priest who is also known for introducing the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism. Zen Buddhism was a direct influence in the creation of the Japanese tea ceremony as the two were inseparable in the temples of China, where tea was used for religious rituals in monasteries as well as everyday drinking. This is where the famous quote, "Tea and Zen, one taste" originates. The Kamakura Shogunate in 13th century ruled the nation and tea and all that related with it became a kind of status symbol among the warrior class. Tea-tasting parties became common place with prizes for correctly judging tea grown in Kyoto area, from the seeds that Monk Eisai brought from China.

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