Buddhism, Alcohol, and Tea in Medieval China

  • James A. Benn


Late medieval China (Tang 唐 dynasty, 618–907) witnessed a relatively rapid change in drinking habits as alcohol increasingly made way to tea as the drink of choice at all levels of society. This shift cannot be understood without appreciating the fact that Buddhists were active not only in changing people’s attitudes toward intoxicating substances, but also in spreading tea drinking throughout the empire. Till the middle of the eighth century, tea was known as a regional speciality of South China, but by the end of the ninth century it had become a vital component in the economy and in everyday lite throughout the empire (Ceresa 1996). Alcohol, which was drunk not only for personal pleasure but also to strengthen social bonds and for ritual purposes, was faced with a rival for the first time in Chinese history.


Ninth Century Eighth Century Buddhist Monk Buddhist Text Drinking Game 
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© Roel Sterckx 2005

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  • James A. Benn

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