The locals in Lancang Lahu Autonomous County of Yunnan Province recently celebrated the onset of spring with a special ceremony held at Jingmai Mountain. The ceremony marks the beginning of the tea-picking season, as it is the ideal time to harvest fresh tea leaves. This tradition is observed annually towards the end of March and is an opportunity for the ethnic minorities, such as the Blang and Dai, to pay homage to their ancestors and show respect for the tea forest, which has been around for centuries.
The tea-picking season is a vital time for the people of Lancang Lahu Autonomous County. Tea is an essential part of their culture, and the ceremony reflects their reverence for nature and the vital role it plays in their livelihoods. The event also offers an opportunity to showcase the region’s stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage to the wider world.
The ceremony involves an elaborate display of traditional costumes, dances, and music. The participants wear colorful clothing and adorn themselves with intricate headdresses, while the air is filled with the sweet aroma of tea. The ceremony begins with an offering of incense to the gods and a prayer for a bountiful harvest. Then, the participants proceed to the tea garden, where they pluck the tender tea leaves by hand.
After the tea leaves are picked, they are then processed and prepared for sale. The tea is a source of pride for the locals, who have been perfecting the art of tea-making for generations. The tea from this region is highly sought after and is exported worldwide, making it a significant source of income for the people of Lancang Lahu Autonomous County.
Jingmai Mountain has been an integral part of the locals’ lives for centuries, renowned for its dense forests of ancient tea trees. The people of Lancang Lahu Autonomous County have continued to maintain an ancient method of tea cultivation featuring a unique multi-layered ecosystem. The tea forest is an essential part of the region’s cultural heritage and identity.
According to Xiong Dengkui, an associate researcher with the Lancang county museum, the key to maintaining harmony between humans and nature is the rational use of land in the Jingmai Mountain. The village has been sited halfway up the mountain, close to the tea forest, while farmland is in low-altitude areas with abundant water sources, which can avoid interference to tea forests during planting. This planting mode is called “vertical land use.”
The tea forest is a source of pride for the locals, who view it as a treasure that will provide for their offspring for generations to come. The wisdom of their ancestors has helped them maintain the tea forest and village for around a thousand years. The Blang ancestor’s teaching, “all the treasures will be used up, and only the tea forest will unfailingly provide for the offspring,” serves as a reminder of the importance of sustainability and the responsible use of natural resources.
The tea forest is not only a source of pride and identity for the locals but also a vital economic resource. The tea from Jingmai Mountain is highly sought after and is exported worldwide, making it a significant source of income for the people of Lancang Lahu Autonomous County. The preservation of the tea forest and its unique ecosystem is, therefore, crucial for both cultural and economic reasons.
The tea forest of Jingmai Mountain is an essential part of the region’s cultural heritage, identity, and economy. The locals’ wisdom and sustainable land use practices have helped maintain the tea forest and village for around a thousand years. The preservation of this treasure is essential for the future generations, and the responsible use of natural resources will ensure the longevity of this vital ecosystem.
The younger generation is introducing new ideas to better develop the tea industry in the ancient tea forests, leading to a newfound vitality. Xian Gong, a 39-year-old from Jingmai Village, started a farmers’ cooperative in 2010. Over time, she expanded the initiative by developing it into a company that integrated the cooperative, a tea factory, a hostel, and a shop under one roof.
Xian Gong’s company has helped revive the tea industry in the area, covering more than 9,000 mu (600 hectares) of tea gardens and generating an annual output of more than 200 tonnes. This success has helped nearly 500 households increase their incomes, a significant boost for the local community.
The cooperative has provided the locals with access to better equipment, technology, and resources, leading to a significant improvement in the quality of their tea. The integration of different aspects of the tea industry has also provided a more comprehensive solution, allowing for more efficient production and distribution.
The success of Xian Gong’s initiative highlights the potential for sustainable and profitable development in the tea industry. The integration of different aspects of the industry, along with the use of modern technology and equipment, has helped to bring new life to the ancient tea forests while providing a source of income for the local community.
The small village of Jingmai is undergoing a remarkable transformation as an increasing number of its residents are embracing new entrepreneurial opportunities. They are establishing cooperatives, tea factories, and homestays. Many of them have adapted to the latest trends in the industry, such as selling tea through live streaming and sharing details of their daily lives and work on social media platforms. These initiatives are helping to create jobs and boost the local economy, while also preserving the ancient tea forests.
The modern tea industry is booming, and this has prompted the residents of Jingmai to take better care of their precious tea forests. They have made efforts to avoid using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, as well as avoiding planting other crops in the tea forests. The local government has also implemented over 20 rules and regulations for the protection of these ancient tea forests. This shows the villagers’ commitment to preserving their environment and the legacy left by their ancestors.
One villager, Xian Gong, expressed the importance of protecting the tea forests. “This tea mountain is the most valuable legacy left by our ancestors, and it is our due responsibility to protect and make good use of it.” This sentiment is shared by many in Jingmai, and it has inspired them to take action to protect their environment.
Overall, the entrepreneurial spirit of the villagers in Jingmai, combined with their commitment to protecting their environment, is helping to create a sustainable future for the community. By embracing modern trends and preserving their ancient tea forests, they are not only generating income but also preserving their culture and heritage for future generations.
In conclusion, the tea-picking ceremony at Jingmai Mountain is an essential cultural event for the people of Lancang Lahu Autonomous County. It highlights the vital role that tea plays in their livelihoods, and it is an opportunity to celebrate their rich cultural heritage. The ceremony is a beautiful display of traditional costumes, music, and dance and is a testament to the deep respect that the locals have for nature and their ancestors.