Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Ever heard of Cha Chi?

Pronounced Tscha Tschee, Cha Chi means the Chi (or Qi) of tea. A look at answers tells us that Chi is: the vital force believed in Taoism and other Chinese thought to be inherent in all things. The unimpeded circulation of chi and a balance of its negative and positive forms in the body are held to be essential to good health in traditional Chinese medicine.

Western medecine tries to link tea and health from a very scientific point of view. But the countless claims about tea's benefit have made me skeptical. They range from the heart, artherosclerosis, cholesterol, dental, cancer, Parkinson's desease, diabetes...

For Western science, the concept of Chi is very elusive, but for tea lovers it may be more noticeable than the aforementioned health benefits. A good, well brewed tea gives the drinker more than a lasting smell and taste in his mouth. You may feel the Chi because your whole body feels warm and you start to sweat. And/or your mouth will be secreting saliva because it tells you it wants more of that tea. And/or your mind will feel crystal clear, as if you had breathed very pure and fresh air.

I can testify that I feel the first two effects with my young, wild pu-er and the last one with high altitude oolong. Another example that Chi may not be linked to a certain molecule in the tea, comes from fresh mountain water. Not everybody has drunk top gong fu cha, but I guess most of us have been hiking in the forrest or in the mountains. What do you feel when you drink from a source of fresh water after a tiring hike? I guess you can feel how this cool water reaches all your muscles, all your aching bones in your body! You were dehydrated and this water restored your body balance. That's one Chi effect!

So, to feel the Cha Chi, you don't have to be that thirsty. But you need to be in an attentive state of mind. Gong Fu Cha refers to the technique of making tea. When I observed how tea masters perform Gong Fu Cha, I was reminded of Qi Gong. The Qi Gong Institute tells us that "the word Qigong (pronounced chi kung) is a combination of two ideas: “Qi” means air, breath of life, or vital energy of the body, and “gong” means the skill of working with, or cultivating, self-discipline and achievement. The art of Qigong consists primarily of meditation, relaxation, physical movement, mind-body integration, and breathing exercises. Practitioners of Qigong develop an awareness of qi sensations (energy) in their body and use their mind to guide the Qi. When the practitioners achieve a sufficient skill level (master), they can direct or emit external Qi for the purpose of healing others."

Personally, I have found it useful to introduce some Qigong during my performance of Gong Fu Cha. I focus on what I do. I try not to rush. I make slow movements. I keep my environment clean and beautiful and breath slowly.

Answers gives more information on Qigong and particularly this criticism: "Much of the criticism of qigong involves its method of operation. Both traditional Chinese and Western medicine practitioners have little argument with the notion that qigong can improve and in many cases maintain health by encouraging movement, increasing range of motion, relaxation, blood oxygen saturation and improving joint flexibility and resilience. However, the benefits of qigong become much more controversial when it is asserted that qigong derives its benefits from qi acting as an external non-physical force. Most biologists and physicists are skeptical of these claims and see no reason to believe that qi exists in this manner.

Some proponents of qigong make the controversial claim that they can directly detect and manipulate this energy, but there are those who insist that they can only demonstrate this to fellow believers. Others, including many traditional Chinese practitioners, believe that qi can be viewed as a metaphor for biological processes, and the effectiveness of qigong can also be explained in terms more familiar to Western medicine such as stress management."

I think we better not fall from one scientific health belief to an external spiritual one. Let's just focus on enjoying tea! I have looked in vain for combined Gong Fu Cha and Qigong experience on the web. Maybe I have laid the basis for a new relaxation method, the Qigong Fu Cha!

(Thanks to Tea-Disc's Bekah for the links to medical research)

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