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World’s oldest tea goes on display this week

Updated: May 17,2016 9:39 AM     Xinhua

Small amounts of tea, unearthed at the graveyard of Emperor Jing (188-141 BC), will be shown at the Hanyang Mausoleum Museum in Xi’an.[Photo/Xinhua]

Tea unearthed from the 2,100-year-old tomb of an emperor will be displayed at a museum in northwestern China this week.

Zhang Yun, deputy director of the Hanyang Mausoleum Museum in Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province, says that the tea, recently recognized as a Guinness World Record for being the world’s oldest, will be exhibited at the museum starting on May 18.

He says the tea was mixed with grains when it was first discovered in 2005 at the Hanyang Mausoleum. The site was the graveyard of Emperor Jing (188-141 BC), father of Emperor Wu, whose reign ushered in one of the most prosperous periods in Chinese history.

However, it was not until 2015 that archaeologists from the Shaanxi Provincial Archaeological Research Institute were able to ascertain the fossilized plant remains were tea. Experts with the Chinese Academy of Sciences used new microfossil plant analysis techniques to examine the samples.

“The analysis results showed that the remains were all dried tea sprouts when they were buried,” says Yang Wuzhan, a research fellow with the institute.

It was the first evidence of tea consumed by a Han Dynasty (202 BC-AD 220) emperor, he says, adding that the findings are of great importance to research on the history of Chinese tea culture.

Rowan Simons, verification officer from the Guinness World Record company, conferred the certificate on May 6 to recognize the discovery as the world’s oldest tea.

He says it has long been known that China is the home of tea, and the world record gives us a deeper understanding of China.

In ancient China, tea had more and different uses than it does today. It was drunk as a beverage, cooked in meals, and even used as herbal medicine.

Ancient Chinese liked to be buried with their favorite things so they could enjoy them in the next world.

Other items found at Emperor Jing’s burial site include pottery figurines, an army of ceramic animals and several chariots as well as animal remains, including cows, sheep, dogs, pigs, deer, rabbits and birds.