The Abolition of Caked Tea by Imperial Decree

Hulu jushi fanyi







The Veritable Records of Emperor Taizu of the Great Ming Dynasty

Sixteenth day, ninth lunar month, twenty-fourth year [1391] of the Hongwu reign period

An Imperial Decree on the Jianning Annual Offering of Tribute Tea

Obey: the officials of the tea households are ordered to cease harvesting and presenting caked tea. Of all the empire’s tea producers of annual tribute on fixed quotas, the tea of Jianning is supreme. To produce tribute tea, leaves must be crushed and kneaded into pulp and pressed into silver molds to make large and small dragon rounds, a method that greatly strains the resources of the people. Abolish the production of dragon rounds. Pick only tea buds to present as tribute. There are four kinds: Seeking Springtime; Gathering Springtime; Staying Spring; and Russet Shoots. We established five hundred tea households, exempted them from corvée labor, and allowed them to specialize in planting and harvesting tea. Afterwards, there were officials who feared these later reforms and sent overseers to abuse the householders, who dreaded their tyranny. Everywhere bribes were taken. This was reported to the imperial court. Thus, the emperor issues this command.





詔建寧歲貢上供茶 聽茶戶採進 有司勿與 天下產茶去處歲貢皆有定額 而建寧茶品為上 其所進者必碾而揉之 壓以銀板 大小龍團 上以重勞民力 罷造龍團 惟採茶芽以進其品有四 曰探春 屯春 次春 紫筍 置茶戶五百 免其徭役 俾專事採植 既而有司恐其後時 常遣人督之 茶戶畏其逼迫 往往納賂 上聞之 故有是命






DaMing Taizu gao huangdi shilu 大明太祖高皇帝實錄 (The Veritable Records of Emperor Taizu of the Great Ming Dynasty) 卷之二百十二 (Chapter 212).


Portrait of Emperor Ming Taizu
Ming dynasty
Album leaf: ink, color, and gold on silk
National Palace Museum, Taibei 



02. December 2014 by Steven D. Owyoung
Categories: History, Literature, Translation | Comments Off on The Abolition of Caked Tea by Imperial Decree