Brill’s Encyclopedia of China

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(1,127 words)

Cha, the current Chinese word for tea, refers both to the botanical item (Camellia Sinensis) and to the drink. Before the character cha came into use in the Han dynasty, the plant was known under different names, such as tu, jia, ming, and chuan. Among these early names, tu, a general name for bitter tasting plants, was the most common until the character cha was created by subtracting a horizontal stroke from the character tu itself. The new character was read cha, which was the alternative reading of the character tu (probably in those circumstances where it meant "tea").

The tea plant is g…

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Ceresa, Marco, “Tea”, in: Brill’s Encyclopedia of China, Managing Editor English Edition: Daniel Leese. Consulted online on 04 December 2023 <>
First published online: 2008
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004168633, 20121018

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