Map of Yunnan, China
Jingmai Mangjing is one of the many origins of Rishi’s Tea and is located in China’s Southwestern Yunnan province.
Map of Yunnan, China
The Jingmai Mangjing Ancient Tea Forest is situated in the highlands of Yunnan’s Lancang River Basin. This region is considered a heritage center for tea and is home to some of the oldest tea trees and tea cultures in the world. This area of Yunnan is famous for its arbor tea tree varietals that make this origin’s tea so unique.
This map highlights the primary Ancient Tea Tree population. The Jingmai Mangjing Tea Tree Forest is located within the yellow highlighted area.
Tea Tree Mountains of Jingmai Mangjing
The settlements of Jingmai Mangjing consist of various mountainside villages. All the villages within Jingmai Mangjing have ancient tea trees. Jingmai is a group of villages inhabited predominantly by the Dai people and Mangjing is a group of villages inhabited mainly the Bulang people. Each family in the Jingmai Mangjing area relies on the sale of tealeaves for the majority of their annual income.
The ecosystem of Jingmai Mangjing provides the perfect environmental conditions for Certified Organic tea. As a tea origin it is unlike the typical monocultural tea farms that cultivate only tea bushes on deforested tracts of mountain land. This is one of the key reasons why we pursued USDA-NOP Certified Organic tea development in this area with the local people. The Jingmai Mangjing tea forest is rich with biodiversity, fertile red soil and ecological balance.
This ancient tea forest is home to many varieties of bamboo, trees, medicinal and culinary herbs, edible fungus and wild vegetables. The local people have no use for synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or large scale clear cutting to pursue their traditional agriculture. Many of the local foods and herbal medicines used by the villagers are not cultivated but wild harvested in the mountains of their ancient tea tree forest. In this photo a Bulang villager shows us an herb that grows on the ancient tea trees called “Diao Lan” or “Singer’s Herb” which is used by local villagers to sooth sore throat and cold.
Ancient Tea Tree Harvest
In this photo, women of the Dai ethnic minority from Jingmai Village climb antique trees to harvest tealeaves for Rishi’s Pu-erh, Black and Green Teas.
In this photo Bulang women from Mangjing Village harvest Rishi’s Ancient Tea Tree flowers.
Bulang Tea Culture
The villagers of Jingmai Mangjing’s social, religious and economic history are intertwined with the ancient tea forest. The local people of Jingmai Mangjing are descendants of the “Pu” ethnic group, who are known as the earliest tea planters (1066 BC-221BC). This photo shows the Bulang Totem found in Mangjing Village which according to the local elders represents the Bulang cultural identity as a people who depend on the river, mountain and tea trees.
Bulang Tea Culture
Bulang cultural and religious adherence forbids the destruction of their ancient tea trees. Ancient Bulang proverbs urge their people to conserve the forest and protect the tea trees for future generations.
Bulang Ancient Tea Proverb:
•If we leave the gold you will spend it…
•If we leave the ox it may die…
•We must leave the tea trees so they can grow and provide…
•You should not let others take the tea trees…
•You should protect the tea trees like you do your life and never let them out of your control.
Statue of Ai Neng
Ancient scrolls and carved stone relics kept by the local people of Jingmai Mangjing indicate that the first of the ancient tea trees were planted in 696 AD by their respected ancestor Ai Neng, who is worshiped by Bulang people as a saint and the tea forefather. Ai Neng brought tea trees and cultivation knowledge to the Bulang. This photo shows Mangjing villagers offering tributes of Pu-erh tea and sweet rice to Ai Neng.
Broad Leaf Varietal
The ancient tea plantation of Jingmai Mangjing is populated by a unique arbor tea varietal known as “Da Ye” (Pinyin Chinese) or “Broad Leaf Type”. Its botanical classification is “Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica.”
Yunnan’s broad leaf arbor tea varietals are classified according to their age and status as: Antique (+100 years old), Old (+30 years old) and Young (less than 30 years old and usually started from the seeds or cuttings of antique tea trees).
Ancient Tree Teas
Unlike modern tea farms, Jingmai Mangjing was established by ancient tea planters more than 1300 years ago and is considered an “Antique Tea Garden.” Many of Jingmai Mangjing’s tea trees range from 800 to 1200 years old, with the eldest tea trees exceeding 1300 years. Over the course of many centuries, the Jingmai Mangjing villagers have nurtured one of the largest areas of antique and old tea trees.
Jingmai Mangjing contains antique, old and young tea trees planted by many generations of Jingmai Mangjing’s villagers. The local people also cultivate young tea trees from seeds and cuttings taken from antique tea trees in order to increase the area of their heirloom ancient tea plantation. Additionally, many of the young tea trees found in Jingmai Mangjing sprout from the fallen seeds of the elder antique and old trees.
Taste of Origin
Contrary to the popular misconception that the unique qualities of tea are derived from the tealeaf processing only – we find that the teas from Jingmai Mangjing’s heirloom arbor varietal have unique characteristics that cannot be reproduced in any other tea producing region. In fact, tea is much like wine in that the varietal of tea plant and the growing region of that tea plant are as influential to the flavor as the method of processing.
Fair Trade Certified™
Rishi’s Fair Trade Ancient Tree Teas encourages the conservation of the old tea trees by supporting the local tribes who are their natural protectors. Rishi’s Ancient Tree Teas from the Jingmai Mangjing Ancient Tea project are USDA-NOP Certified Organic and also Fair Trade Certified by Trans-Fair USA. In 2003, we began to work with the local people of Jingmai Mangjing to establish our Fair Trade tea program which is the only source of Fair Trade Certified teas direct from the villages of Jingmai Mangjing. Not all teas from the Jingmai Mangjing area are Fair Trade Certified. Look for the logo.
By choosing Fair Trade Certified Ancient Tree Teas you are directly supporting a better life for Jingmai Mangjing families through fair prices, direct trade, community development, education and environmental stewardship. For every kilo of tea that Rishi imports from Jingmai Mangjing there is a social premium of 1 EURO (aprox. $1.20 USD) given back to the Jingmai Mangjing community.
Social premiums generated by Rishi Tea sales of Jingmai Mangjing’s tea have helped the local people to establish a library, a Bulang cultural center, an agricultural training program for villagers, road improvements and water purification. Recent Fair Trade premiums generated by Rishi’s Ancient Tree Teas have supported the first two students from Mangjing Village to attend university, as well as the development of an herbal tea processing initiative to diversify cash crop biodiversity. Rishi’s Fair Trade Ancient Tree Tea program encourages the conservation of the old tea trees by supporting the local hill tribes who are their natural protectors.
Teacher Su is the elected leader of the Jingmai Mangjing Ancient Tea Association. He is a Bulang from Mangjing and was a school teacher. Since his retirement from teaching, he has moved back to his village and established the initiative to develop the Bulang Cultural Center which was just completed in 2004. He is a direct descendant of the Bulang tribal “King” and is widely respected as a cultural leader by both the Bulang and Dai people living in Jingmai Mangjing.
Fair Trade Funds
Teacher Su discusses the future of Fair Trade in Jingmai Mangjing with Joshua Kaiser of Rishi Tea.
Rishi Tea works directly with our friends, the villagers of Jingmai Mangjing who harvest our teas. During each harvesting season, Rishi Tea staff go to Jingmai Mangjing to verify that our teas are exclusively hand harvested from the antique and old heirloom tea trees of Jingmai Mangjing.
Fair Trade Tea for Education
Yunnan is rich with ancient culture and is home to a bounty of ecological resources but has one of the lowest income levels per capita in all of China. So many children go without education due to a lack of funds for local schools, books and infrastructure. The Fair Trade Certification program allows Rishi Tea to give back to the community of Jingmai Mangjing through the third party audited transfer of social premium funds generated by the sale of Rishi’s Ancient Tree Teas. Social premium funds have been spent by the local people on educational programs, books and school renovations. Education is one of the primary targets of the Ancient Tea Tree Association of Jingmai Mangjing.
Sadly, many schools in Yunnan are dilapidated and sub-standard like the one seen in this photo. There is a lot of room for the growth of our Fair Trade tea program and we hope to expand it to all of our Yunnan projects in the future.
New School in Mangjing
Here is an example of how your support of the Fair Trade Ancient Tea Tree Program can improve the conditions of the community that makes these wonderful teas. This school was just built toward the end of 2004 with Fair Trade Funds generated from the sale of Rishi Ancient Tree Teas.
This photo was taken inside the new Jinagmai Manjing cultural center that Fair Trade Tea social premium funds helped to build. The cultural center is used to house many ancient artifacts from the region, as well as host local religious ceremonies and cultural festivities. Rishi staff was invited to attend the annual Sangkang Festival in Jingmai Mangjing.
Sangkan Bulang Festival
Bulang and Dai (Thai) people share ancient ancestry and use Thai manuscript as their written language. The ancient Bulang texts state that the Thai King bestowed magical powers on Ai Neng, their tea forefather, to lead the Bulang people. The Sangkan Festival originated in ancient times and coincides with the Thai New Year (Songkran). The roots of Sangkan can be traced to Buddhist Scriptures written in Pali that refer to the Zodiacal movement of Aries to Taurus.
The timing of the festival reflects the ancient use of the Lunar Calendar and celebrates when the year’s harvest ends and the New Year’s planting begins. It is held each year on April 13th-April 16th.
In Thailand and parts of Yunnan, this festival is famous for public water splashing and celebration. It is a wonderful time to visit Jingmai Mangjing during their Sankang Festival for a taste of local culture and an insight into their religious system which reflects ancestral worship, animism and Buddhism.
Washing Buddha Images
During Sangkan, all images of the Buddha are washed and according to ritual are paraded through the various villages with monks, musicians and local people. Each family also washes the Buddha images kept in their homes. The water splashing associated with the Thai New Year is believed to come from this ancient ritual and is considered an act of washing away the past year’s bad luck.
Here Bulang women send their prayers to their husbands who have passed away. During Sangkan, families prepare colorful streamers and banner like flags with prayers to their ancestors written on them.
Bulang Water Ritual
Villagers throughout the Jingmai Mangjing area travel long distances to bring water for the ritual offering of water to Ai Neng (their tea forefather).
Gifts for the Ancestors
Many villagers also bring locally produced tea and Buddhist images in a show of respect for Ai Neng and other ancestors.
Offerings of Respect
Villagers collect sand and prepare various foods like sweet rice wrapped in banana or bamboo leaves. These items are prepared by each family to perform merit building rituals and offerings of respect to their ancestors inside and outside the temple.
Shan Kang (Songkran) Festival
And the dancing continues late into the night with drumming and singing. We hope this visual tour was enjoyable, and we invite you to tour the region through taste as well. You can use the link below to sample Jingmai Mangjing teas, and also support the continuation of this amazing tea heritage through the Fair Trade social premium funds.