Friday, April 12, 2013

Guest Post: The Legend of the 7 Sons Cake (Qi Zi Bing)

The Legend of the 7 Sons Cake (Qi Zi Bing)

The Qi Zi Bing is a ubiquitous sight in the homes of Puer lovers. From traditional stalwarts like Menghai, Xiaguan and Kunming Tea Factories to new upstarts like Haiwan and 6 Famous Tea Mountain Factory, there are no shortage of Qi Zi Bing on the market.

The name 7 Sons Cakes is an exotic one and given the proclivity of the Chinese for coming up with legends for everything, here is the legend of the 7 Sons Cake:

Long ago, in the village of Fengyang, there lived a couple who had 8 children. The sons were named Ai Lao, Bulang, Ji Nou (I think Puer fans can see a trend by now J), Ah Wa, Ai Ni (which means love of daughter, which wouldn’t be surprising given that this is the 5th son already), La Gu (which means to ‘pull a daughter’, following the trend of his older sibling) and Wu Liang (which means they have too many sons already).
Finally the couple’s stoic refusal to give up paid off and their youngest child was a daughter whom they named ‘Ha Ni’ (haha, finally a daughter).

Though that meant many mouths to feed, the couple was delighted at their many offspring. It was with great hardship- they sold tea, not exactly the most lucrative trade around J- that they brought the children up until they were of marriageable age.

The couple gathered their children in the main hall and began discussing their future. The father- like most traditional Chinese men- was desirous that his sons followed in his footsteps to continue the family business- notwithstanding the poverty factor- as he believed that tea was the best medicine and not only could it delight the masses, it was beneficial to them as well.

But the more they discussed, reality set in and the old man realized his paltry possessions would not amount to much when divided among his sons, especially if he wanted to buy land to grow tea. It seemed his dream would never be fulfilled and the depression coupled with his old age led to him falling into a coma.

His 7 sons ventured far and wide to search for a remedy for their father to no avail. The 7 th son- Wu Liang- travelled to a far off place eventually and saw a huge majestic tea tree. Thinking that it was his father’s lifelong obsession, even if it didn’t cure his father, at least it would make him happy, Wu Liang picked some leaves and brought them home.

True to the stuff of legends, the tea served from those leaves revived his father.

Inspired by the heroics of Wu Liang, the old man thought that though their family was unable to afford land his able bodied sons could travel to remote mountains and begin picking leaves.

So that’s how his family’s fortune turned around. The 7 sons diligently traveled into the remote mountains to pick tree and eventually went further and further. This brought about financial independence and by and by the 7 sons each got married and their offspring continued the family business.

As for the daughter, she stayed with her parents and the old man christened teas made by her “Nv Er Cha’ or literally Daughter’s Tea.

Though the sons eventually settled down elsewhere- in the mountains named after them- Ai Lao, Bu Lang, Ji Nuo, Ah Wa, Ai Ni, La Gu and Wu Liang, without fail they returned home each year to celebrate their father’s birthday.

In order to preserve their best tea in an optimal state, they compressed it into cakes and carried it on horseback. The old man’s heart burst with pride seeing those fine teas and the filialness of his sons. He wrapped the cakes carefully with bamboo leaves and stored it carefully at home, seizing any possibility to tell anyone that would care to listen that those were his sons.

That bamboo wrapped group became to be known as a ‘tong’ and the cakes as 7 Son Cakes in honor of that family.

Author Note:

Derek Chew owns and operates Peony Tea S.- a tea shop dedicated to helping tea lovers of all levels of experience find their perfect cup.