This is the most famous of all
Chinese oolongs. Guanyin, sometimes called the Goddess of Mercy, is
actually more like the Buddhist equivalent of the Madonna. She is a bodhisattva,
one who is qualified to enter nirvana, but chose to remain on earth to bring
all to enlightenment. Statues of her stand in many Buddhist temples, and a
woman who wants a child may pray to her. A legend gives one version of why a
tea bears her name.
An iron statue of Guanyin
stood in a rundown temple in central Fujian's Shaxian (Sand) province. The
temple's condition aroused the concern of a tea grower who passed it daily.
Financially uanble to repair it, he thought that the least he could do was
to burn incense and clean the place twice a month.
One night Guanyin
appeared to him in a dream and told him to look in the cave behind the
temple for a treasure. He was to take it for himself but also to share it
with others. There he found a single tea shoot which he planted and cultivated
into a bush with leaves that produced a singularly fine drink. He began
selling it under the Guanyin name, and gave many cuttings to his
neighbors. All prospered, and eventually the temple was repaired.
A book from contemporary China
gives another version: this tea is so named for the appearance of its
processed leaves -- dark as iron and heavier than other teas, but with a
quality as pure and beautiful as Guanyin.
- As described in the book, All the Tea in China
by Kit Chow & Ione Kramer (1990)