Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Journey of water seeking

Rain season is here in LA, after a week of heavy rain, the sky above is brighter, clearer, and calls for reaching above. Hiked and high above the basin of San Gabriel valley, I reached for the sky, hiked and low below the mountain valley, I reached for the pure water. It's a day to seek high and low, so much as in life itself.

Water is the mother of tea, utensils are father of tea. I have collected a few tea wares to improve water and tea flavor, improving water quality on the other hand is an endless goal. To start, I have a 5 steps reverse osmosis purifying system, bamboo charcoal to further purify, Chao Zhou red clay Sha Diao to improve flavor. From there, I inserted an extra step, using Yixing clay jar to store water, adding bamboo charcoal and crystals. Last week, I caught a couple pitchers of rainwater, the water itself is sweeter than all that I could do to improve water artificially.

This results in my trip up the mountain then hiked down to find that natural water. Well, the water is found, but I couldn't bring them back up the mountain by hand. So I filled up from the water fountain which is treated local water.
San Gabriel Mountain
Small trail heading down to the stream, sound of water is music to my ears as I hopped down the hill.
Tree: I can handle the pressure...
In my way...
I can get pass you...I can see you now!
I am right beside you now..
Standing in the middling of the stream now... Strange rock with a rock within, without seams.
Flowing down the stream, casual as usual, soft yet powerful! Water, is life, is part of me, is part of you. It brings joy to many, it brings destruction to others. Cheers to all, the living and the not!

泪已下阶头Sunset at mountain topSan Gabriel basin from above...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New old stuff arrived

Got a big box yesterday! In this cold weather accompanied with pouring rain, what'd be better than having a fire going, collect heavenly rain water and brew myself a cup after cup of nice tea!

I have been rewarding myself with several good trees this year, in side of this box, I once again got a nice little gift for myself, 08 Cha Wang Dan Cong. A set of Batavian gaiwan with 4 cups for myself, and 40 Batavian cups of the gold fish design, will have them posted on www.teahabitat.com soon. They are best for pu-erh tea or for drinking large cup of tea, hand made during Guang Xu Nian (late 1700's).

I am slowly acquiring as much 07 old bush dan congs as possible to commemorate the opening of Tea Habitat. The rest of the 07 Zei Shi - Thief Shit and some others are now in LA. Also accquired the entire stock of 98 Honey Orchid, no special meaning of the year, it's just good tea and it will be 21 years old in just another 10 years. :P Have been collecting 10+ years old teas (both pu-erh and Dan Cong), and 07 old bush Dan Cong. I should have 100 kg of 07 old bush Shui Xian/Dan Cong stored away in China by now. Will store 100 kg or more each year as my retirement fund.

6 small 50 to 80 ml Chao Zhou red clay pots! The 50 ml pots are sooooooo cute! One is mine, the other is available.

Mama pot (80 ml), baby pot (50 ml)... I am keeping these 2... :P
During my trip to China a little over a month ago has opened many doors for me, one of them is pu-erh. Will have some unusual pu-erh teas arriving soon, vintage, wild old arbor teas, etc... :D

A little side note, rain water is great for tea! After collecting the rainwater, let it sit for a few hours, drain the top 3/4 into a clean container, boil then make tea. Enjoy!

I might visit one of the mountains near by and fill up all my 5 gallon water jugs with fresh rain water from local stream or water fall.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Tea review - Jan 2010

I have fallen behind on tea review for a couple of months. Well, I have been busy with time and other interest, plus the holidays made me a bit lazy. So, as my first attempt of this new year, I am slowing posting my thoughts on new teas in stock for now.

Yang Mei Ye: got its name from the shape of the leaf when fresh. Here is a picture of the tea after 20+ infusions. Good looking leaves, thin large leaves, very soft and flexible, mixture of open leaves and still rolled up younger leaves, a sign of aroma with Yun both present in this tea.
Taste is sweet with a hint of plum wine flavor, with long lasting sweet after taste concentrating on the throat. It can last up to 20 some infusions. The Yun is what I love about this tea the most.

2003 Liu Bao Flower Buds. Yunnan open flower teas are quite easy to find, however Liu Bao flower buds only tea is not so common. These are all unopen smally flower buds that have been stored away for 6 years. The initial flavor is clean and sweet, the fragrace become stronger as the number of brews increases. Some times I forgot about it and left it brewing for a long time and cold, the fragrance is so delicately strong as it's blooming right in the mouth. Very lovely tea!
As my tea age increases, the more I look for in the substance of the tea. The Chinese name this substance Yun. It's how the tea make you feel, sweet, rich, smooth, stay in throat centering by the neck. The richer the Yun (substance) a tea has, the lower it reaches down your pipe. Tasty teas stay mostly in your mouth, good teas stay in the back of the throat, better teas travels down the neck, excellent teas reaches the chest, the best tea I ever had got all the way down to my heart.

*** to be continue with more tea reviews

Thursday, January 07, 2010

My last name 单 - Shan4

It's a shocking day! I have not had an emotional day like today for a long time, I actually cried. The last time was reading Lu You and Tang Wan, but that doesn't count since it had nothing to do with me.

While I was in Guang Zhou, I met a couple which we had a brief discussion about population migration in Guang Dong Province, and my last name caught her attention. My last name is rather unusual in Chinese. She told me it must be from a noble ancestry. Chinese uses a phrase Gui Xing (noble/precious last name) when asking another person's last name due to respect as common practice. But Chinese phrases are rarely composed randomly. So the more rare the more noble?

Shan's family history

Today, some how, out of the blue, totally random, I googled my last name 单 - Shan4. I am related to Zhou Cheng Wang (1055 - 1021 BC) - 2nd emperor of Zhou dynasty! Zhou Cheng Wang assigned land (county) in He Nan today to his youngest son, named the land 单邑 - Shan4 Yi4 (county). His descendants take on the last name 单 after the assigned county name ever since. The original last name of the Zhou family and also mine was 姬 - Ji. The entire family are descendants of 黄帝 - Huang Di, 1 of the 5 earliest Chinese emperors in the history. Huang Di's original last name was 公孙 - Gong Shun, he lived in 姬水, He Nan region for a long time, then changed his last name to 姬 - Ji. Zhou Wu Wang assigned over 53 counties to the dukes and princesses of his, each descendant later took on name of the county as last name. 姬 - Ji was no longer a main last name as in the 黄帝 - Huang Di period for that reason.

Zhou Cheng Wang is son of Zhou Wu Wang whom is the son of Zhou Wen Wang. Naturally, the Shans were one of noble families of the Zhou dynasty, over 20 generations had important seats in the parliament during Zhou Dynasty.

Zhou Wen Wang is the original author of Zhou Yi, Confucius and his dispels translated it into Yi Jing (I-Ching). The king of Chinese Classic books which shaped the Chinese culture for over 3 thousand years.

It's not up to me to decide whether I should believe in fate. Zhou Yi has been my latest obsession, it has changed my mind set, it has changed my attitude, it has changed my perception of universal matters. I owe it to this 3000 years old ancient Chinese classic of philosophy for everything happening and taking changes in my life now and till the day I die. This is a book I worship!!! When I read philosophy books from the west and the east, I find my brain wave is more coherent with the eastern philosophy, so I automatically assumed me being Chinese, my mind is bias subconsciously. Now that I found out Zhou Wen Wang (author) is my ancestor, the shock was beyond imaginable. I have Zhou Yi in my blood!!!! This is the biggest news since the day I was born! :P

Through out Chinese history, Shan's has produced many famous and capable generals, politicians, poets, inventors, and a LOT of 进士-Jin Shi. Today, there are about half a million Shan's in China. The migration in the last 3 thousand years began at He Nan, west to Gan Shu/Yunnan/Sichuan, east to Shanxi/Shannxi/Shandong/Anhui/Zhejian/Jianxi/Shuzhou, the eastern branch split up north to Shenyang/Jilin, and south to Guangdong/Fujian, this branch has branched out to over seas countries like myself. My family is the Guangdong branch station in Dongguan. Today, a Shan's family Ci Tang is still standing in Dongguan which I'll visit one day. A family tree wood carved print record from the Qing Dynasty of this Guangdong branch is now at Utah Last Name Research Association! How convenient, I'll bug the heck out of them one day! I want to see it in person!!!! Btw, what the heck is a Chinese last name family record doing in Utah???

Boy, that's a lot to live up to after finding out there are so many of my ancestors were over achievers year after year for so many thousands years. No mater what, I am soooo darn proud of my heritage!

Tracing back the family tree is fun.... I was a 公孙 - Gong Shun, then a 姬 - Ji, now a 单 - Shan. :D

Zhou dynasty combined Western and eastern Zhou, together is an almost 800 years old empire which is the longest dynasty in Chinese history. Its longevity had much to do with Zhou Wen Wang's philosophy, Zhou Yi.

I should keep this hush hush, 黄帝 - Huang Di defeated 炎帝 (神农氏 - Shen Nong Shi), the discoverer of tea... I am born to pay a 5 thousand years old Karma bill?! :P

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Got milk?

Fresh goat milk for sale at the street of Chao Zhou... Nice and warm... yummm... uh.. I didn't try it...


Lanterns is one of the highlights of Chinese interior/exterior decoration. My mother's friend made a Running Horse lantern for our home back in the days. Running Horse lantern is made with an inside and out side layer, the outside is for structure and decoration, the inside is to shield the flame from wind, painted in 6 panels usually. As it's lit up, the in side turns in circular motion. Because of this reason, the paintings are usually men on horses in one direction, hence the name Running Horse Lantern. As a child, I had fancied immortal fairies in ancient clothing and hair drifting above clouds, such characters can be found on lantern paintings as well. Therefore lanterns naturally become my favorite decor.

Stone carving

Roof tops

Roof is the most important and elaborate feature of ancient Chinese architecture. One of the reason is providing a roof for the family is the most important life accomplishment for a man. A few ancient Chinese architecture books are coming on a boat, 1 of them emphasize on roof, its meaning and structure. I can't wait any longer for its arrival!