Victor Mair - Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Pennsylvania
Sometime around the middle of the 9th century, a ship of Indian or Arab-Persian construction went down in the waters off Belitung Island between Sumatra and Borneo. The ship was carrying approximately 60,000 items apparently intended for a destination in the Middle East. Among the objects recovered from the ship were around 45,000 bowls, at least one of which bears an inscription dating it to the year 826 A.D. All of the designs on the bowls are different, but one is of particular interest for devotees of tea, since it carries the inscription cházhǎnzi 茶盞子 (“tea bowl”). A careful linguistic analysis of this term leads to some revealing aspects of the history of tea in China.