Spring has arrived, marking the beginning of the ideal time for harvesting fresh tea leaves in Lancang Lahu autonomous county of Yunnan province. The locals of this region celebrated the start of the tea-picking season with a vibrant ceremony at Jingmai Mountain. This annual ritual, which occurs towards the end of March, is a time-honored tradition among local ethnic minorities such as the Blang and Dai. It is an opportunity to pay homage to their ancestors and show respect for the tea forest, which has been around for centuries, before harvesting the gifts of nature.
Jingmai Mountain has dense forests of ancient tea trees that have been an integral part of the locals’ lives for centuries. The people here have maintained an ancient method of tea cultivation featuring a unique multi-layered ecosystem. 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 in the middle of the mountain, while farmland is in low-altitude areas with abundant water sources, which can avoid interference to tea forests during planting. Xiong referred to this planting mode as “vertical land use.” This planting strategy has allowed the locals to maintain the balance between human activities and the natural environment.
The teachings of a legendary Blang ancestor emphasized the importance of using resources wisely. “All the treasures will be used up, and only the tea forest will unfailingly provide for the offspring.” The wisdom of the ancestors has enabled the tea forest and village to last for approximately a thousand years. This rich cultural heritage is passed down from generation to generation.
The tea-picking season is a critical time for the locals. They must carefully select the best leaves to create high-quality tea. The process of picking tea leaves requires patience, skill, and expertise. The locals follow a traditional method of hand-picking tea leaves, which has been passed down from generation to generation.
The tea-picking ceremony is a time of celebration, with the locals dressed in traditional attire and performing traditional dances. The ceremony is a way of thanking nature for the gifts it provides and acknowledging the importance of preserving the environment. It is also an opportunity to promote the cultural heritage of the region.
Jingmai Mountain is not only known for its tea but also for its unique biodiversity. The mountain is home to a diverse range of plants and animals, some of which are endangered. The locals understand the importance of preserving the natural environment and have implemented measures to protect it. The tea forest and the surrounding area have been designated as a protected area.
The annual tea-picking ceremony is a testament to the locals’ deep connection with the land and the environment. It is an opportunity to showcase the unique cultural heritage of the region, which has been preserved for centuries. The locals’ commitment to preserving the environment and maintaining the balance between human activities and nature is a model for sustainable development.
the tea-picking season at Jingmai Mountain is not only an occasion to harvest tea leaves but also a time to celebrate the unique cultural heritage of the region. The locals’ deep connection with the land and the environment is evident in their traditional tea cultivation methods and their commitment to preserving the natural environment. The tea forest and the surrounding area are not only a source of livelihood for the locals but also a crucial part of the region’s cultural identity.
The younger generation in the area is introducing new ideas to better develop the tea industry, breathing new life into the ancient tea forests. One of these young entrepreneurs is Xian Gong, a 39-year-old who started a farmers’ cooperative in Jingmai village in 2010. Over time, she expanded the initiative to become a company that integrates the cooperative, tea factory, hostel, and shop under one roof.
Today, the tea gardens under the cooperative cover more than 9,000 mu (600 hectares) and generate an annual output of more than 200 tonnes, helping nearly 500 households increase their incomes. Other villagers are also embracing new entrepreneurial opportunities by establishing cooperatives, tea factories, and homestays. Many have adapted to the latest trends, such as selling tea through live streaming and sharing details of their daily lives and work on social media platforms.
As the modern tea industry booms, the residents of Jingmai have taken better care of their ancient tea forests. In addition to the locals’ efforts to refrain from using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, as well as avoiding planting other crops in the tea forests, the local government has implemented over 20 rules and regulations for the protection of precious ancient tea forests.
Xian Gong recognizes the value of the tea forests and feels that it is their due responsibility to protect and make good use of them. She believes that the future of the tea industry lies in the hands of the younger generation and their ability to strike a balance between tradition and innovation.
As such, the younger generation is introducing new technologies and techniques to improve tea production while preserving traditional methods. These methods include using drones to monitor the tea gardens, installing sprinkler systems for irrigation, and utilizing solar energy to power tea factories. These innovations have helped increase tea production while minimizing the impact on the environment.
Moreover, the younger generation is also promoting the region’s tea culture through various events, such as tea festivals and tea ceremonies. These events not only promote the tea industry but also the cultural heritage of the region. By doing so, they hope to attract more tourists to the area, creating new economic opportunities for the local community.
Overall, the younger generation’s innovative spirit is helping to breathe new life into the ancient tea forests of Jingmai. By embracing modern technologies and techniques while preserving traditional methods, they are creating a sustainable tea industry that benefits both the environment and the local community.