The Bulang and the Tea Spirit
Each year in mid-April, the Bulang people (Chinese: 布朗族 pinyin: Bulangzu) in the Yunnan province, perform the ancient worship of the tea spirit.
The prince and tribal leader makes this annual trip to the sacred tea mountain.
It is located approximately near Mangjing village in the Lancang county in the Yunnan province.
This 1000 year old ritual is an animist practice, although most of the Bulang are pluralistic - animist-Hinayana Buddhist.
Water is drawn from a sacred mountain spring and transported in large bamboo tubes.
The worship of the spirit of tea and their ancestral prince and princess is usually performed by the village elders and the village leader who is also a prince to the tribe.
The villagers use tea leaves that have been soaked in water to wash the ancestral idols and totems.
This is followed with merriment, feasting, dancing and singing.
The Bulang are a tribe of tea growers.
They were influential in the domestication of tea for personal consumption and economic viability.
According to history, almost 2000 years ago it was in Mangjing that the cultivation, harvesting and processing of tea began.
The tea culture and practice evolved from chewing the leaves among the Bulang for medicinal purposes, to the savory hot beverage enjoyed by the world.
The millennium old practice of preparing tea among the Bulang is still very much practiced.
The roasting tea leaves with charcoal in a special container and then it is steeped in water boiling in an iron pot.
This is usually tea served to honored guests.
The tea mountain of the Bulang tribe belong to the entire tribe.
The ancient tea trees range from 500 to 1000 years old.
The tea mountain has endured for generations and is a sustainable income for the entire tribe.
The tea mountain is in a sub-tropical climate.
The altitude ranges from 1500-2300 meters.
They get plentiful rain, has fertile soil, is warm and rich in natural resources like copper, iron, sulphur and rock crystal..
The Bulang people are an agricultural community.
Their main cash crops include the famous Puer tea, cotton and sugarcane.
They also raise their own lifestock.
The mountain is covered with virgin forests that yields abundant medicinal herbs like lemongrass and pseudogingsing that are wild crafted by the tribe.
One of the more unique tea tradition among the Bulang is 'Bamboo Tea.'
This unique method entails boiling water in a bamboo tube.
When the water in the bamboo tube is boiling at its peak, tea leaves are added.
The tea is infused in the bamboo and served .
One of the other aspects of tea among the Bulang is that they eat it as part of their staple.
It is called SuanCha.
Suancha is served with meals, at weddings and celebrations.
The usual mixture is with salt, chili and garlic accompanied with rice.
Suancha takes anywhere between 6 months to 2 years to complete its underground fermentation process.
The raw tea leaves are cooked for 10 minutes in water.
Then drained and packed into a bamboo tube.
The bamboo is then sealed with red clay and buried in the ground.
After the burial, the ground is watered and kept damp to aide in the fermentation process.