Gu Zhu Zi Sun and Our Visit to Tang Dynasty’s Tribute Factory

This video was taken during a visit to the Gu Zhu Zi Sun (Purple Bamboo Shoot) tea garden in Zhejiang province. During the first portion of the video, Zhuping discusses the history of this tea. The second portion contains the content of their visit at the tea garden and with the tea makers who produce the tea.

History | Part One

Purple Bamboo Shoot was written about first over twelve hundred years ago by Lu Yu in The Classic of Tea, otherwise known as chàjīng. He is credited with having written the first tea book.

During the time Lu Yu was around, the Tang Dynasty’s emperor ordered the first tribute tea factory to be made; it is thought that this occurred sometime around 785 A.D. The chosen location for the tea factory was in Gu Zhu valley. This area can be found in the Gu Zhu mountains of the county Chang Xing in Zhejiang province. It is thought that Lu Yu’s promotion of Gu Zhu Zi Sun contributed to the erection of the tea factory in this area. The factory was named after the village. Although the Gu Zhu valley area has quite a few mountainous regions, only about three have been identified as being ideal locations for tea due to their embankments being insulated from the sun’s direct light.

It is important to note that tribute tea depends entirely on the dynasty. Different dynasties hailed and promoted different teas as being tribute tea. There is no single tribute tea! For the Tang dynasty, however, Gu Zhu Zi Sun (Purple Bamboo Shoot) remained popular throughout its reign.

Visiting Gu Zhu | Part Two

Lu Yu identified mountains containing a higher percentage of large stones in the soil as being ideal grounds for growing tea. You can see in the video after Zhuping has scaled some of the mountain that some of these rocks are quite large. According to Lu Yu, the stones added a richness to the soil that added a complexity to the tea it grew in. It also allowed water to pass through the soil more readily. As Zhuping mentions, Lu Yu would have approached the Gu Zhu village from uphill since he was coming from Yixing City.

Zi Sun means “purple bamboo shoot”, and this refers to the shape and color of the fresh tea leaves at the time of their picking. The picking standard for Purple Bamboo shoot is one bud to one slightly opened leaf. The picking for tea in general is not done with the nail. It must be plucked skillfully. If the leaves for this tea are picked around May, their coloring is purple. If the buds or the leaves are too small, the color doesn’t show; if the leaves are too mature, the coloring also will not show. Winters are longer in this area, pushing harvest after Qing Ming.

We have the opportunity to see how the shaqing stage, also known as “kill the green”, of Purple Bamboo Shoot is accomplished. The pan that the tea leaves are getting fried in is extremely hot, but it is necessary for two hands to be used.