Tea in Tibet
The following is just a short note on tea in 17th century Tibet and the use of different tea brands as salaries given by the central Tibetan government to officials and employees, such as local and foreign craftsmen.
When reading original Tibetan sources of the 17th century it becomes obvious that quite a number of different tea brands were circulating in Tibet. The following brands are collected from the writings of the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682) and the regent Sangs-rgyas-rgya-mtsho (1653-1705):
tA tshang / tA tsha
ya ju / yA ju / yag ju / yags ju = the quality of yA ju was superior to 'u zi.
spu ja / spus ja
'u zi = was regarded as tea of normal quality: dkyus ja 'u zi
zi ling spu ja = quality tea from Ziling
sa'an tsha / san tshA
ya ju za'u 'dres pa = Yaju mixed with Za'u
hu ja / hu ja nag po
zi ling nag ja = black tea from Ziling
rgya ja nag po = Chinese black tea
shir ja / shi ra ja /
'jang ja / 'jangs ja = green tea???
ping cing spu ja / pi cing spu ja = quality tea from Beijing
sog ja = tea from Mongolia
sha phing / sha bing
shan ja = sha shan
Except nag po and nag gsar (= nag po gsar pa) these names seem to be Chinese names and consequently we find many different spellings in Tibetan texts.
Some of these brands had a higher value than others and the price of the different tea brands was fixed according the Lhasa market price (khrom thang).
While searching Tibetan eTexts of the 16th and 18th century it turned out that the above-mentioned brands do not occur in those texts. But it should be kept in mind that the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682) and in particular the regent Sangs-rgyas-rgya-mtsho (1653-1705) were very precise in registering the different tea brands. Such matters were perhaps of no interest to other writers of earlier or later periods. May it be as it is, we think, that the list above can be used in dating documents from that period when other hints are missing. Such is the case with the She-bam-chen-mo, a collection of Tibetan legal material, from the second part of the 17th century.
The tea brand yA ju is recorded in the biography of PaN chen Dpal ldan ye shes (1738-1780), in the modern western book-style edition on p. 155 and elsewhere. Other tea brands in this biography are:
ljon ja (?)
In the Biography of Shakya mchog ldan we find two other tea brands (fol. 54b, 2-3):
rkyang zi seems to be "pure Zi ling tea"
(This reference was kindly provided by Volker Caumanns.)
More will follow in due course.