A paper of “master and slave contract”, “accidentally” recorded the first tea market

Sichuan is one of the region in China to plant and drink tea for the first time. It has 2,000 years’ history. On September 11, the book of “History of Tea Culture in Sichuan” is published in Chengdu, jointly edited by Sichuan Tea Culture Research Institution and Sichuan Academy of Social Science. According to his book, the first tea trade was recorded in Sichuan.

If you talk about where the first tea market was from, it is hard to tell. However, the first tea market trade on record is in Sichuan. The famous writer Wang Bao has unintentionally recorded such activity in his book “Master and slave contract”.

59 BC, Wang Bao traveled Chengdu, living in his dead friend’s widow, Wang Hui’s home. She has a slave called Bianliao. Wang Bao often sent Bianliao to buy alcohol. Bianliao was not happy about it. And he suspected that there was affair going on between Wang Bao and Wang Hui. Once, Bianliao complaint his dissatisfaction in front of the tomb of his master, “When you brought me, you only asked me to guard the home and didn’t require me to buy alcohol for others.” When Wang Bao knew about it, he is very angry and brought Bianliao from Wang Hui for 15000. Even though Bianliao was not happy with it, but there was nothing he can do. But he required that Wang Bao to put everything he needed to do in the contract, otherwise, he would not do it.

Thus, Wang Bao wrote famous “master and slave contract”. As the contract, Wang Bao listed many detailed tasks and schedule. He has mentioned tea twice: “Brewing tea and cleaning the tea ware” and “Purchasing tea in Wuyang”.

As one of the editors of “History of Tea Culture in Sichuan, Dr. Su Donglai at the Sichuan Academy of Social Science tell journalist: “Brewing tea and cleaning the tea ware” indicates that tea drinking is not only popular at that time, but also there are specific tea ware for the tea drinking. There is certain method of cleaning tea ware. “Purchasing tea in Wuyang” tells that they have to purchase tea to the nearby county – Wuyang. This explained that Wuyang is tea market and distribution center. The two records listed above indicates that the tea drinking is popular in Sichuan area, and the tea market is relatively complete.

Then, where is Wuyang?

According to the record in “Chronicles of Huayang”, Shifang County produces good tea”, “Nan’an County and Wuyang produces famous tea”. This shows that the tea production sites are spread widely in Sichuan. And the quality of tea produced in Wuyang is good, “famous tea”.

Because the original version of “master and slave contract” has been lost, there are many versions now. In the copy, there is a saying of “Purchasing tea in Wudu”. Scholars think the “Wudu” recorded should be the Wudu county in Han Dynasty, which is now the region of Lveyang and Ningqiang in Shanxi. However, from the environment condition for tea production, Wudu is far away from Chengdu, and located in the cold mountain area, which is not suitable for the growth of tea. Additionally, Wang Bao would not send Bianliao to purchase tea that is thousand miles away. Therefore, the possibility of purchasing tea in Wudu can be eliminated basically, says Su Donglai.

According to “Chronicles of Huayang “, “Wuyang county has Wangqiao and Pengzu Temple”. Pengzu temple is located in Pengzu Moutnain, Jiangkou County, Pengshan District, Meishan. According to research, Wuyang is now Pengshan. Doording to the Book of Han, Wuyang county is located in the convenient transportation hub, which is only 70 kilometers away from Chengdu. “Pengshan is close to Min river, the transportation is convenient. The nearby mountain area is the main production site for tea in Sichuan. Therefore, it has the necessary conditions to become the distribution center.” Says Su Donglai.

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