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Good news for the fans of Zhangping Shuixian tea! Its processing technique was successfully added to the world intangible cultural heritage list

On November 29, at the 17th session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Rabat, Morocco, “Traditional tea processing techniques and associated social practices in China” was announced to be into the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, making it China’s 43rd cultural item included in the Representative List. The program of tea making techniques involves Wuyi rock tea (Dahongpao), Tieguanyin, Fuding white tea, Fuzhou jasmine tea, Tanyang Gongfu tea, and Zhangping Shuixian tea in Fujian Province.

Oolong Tea Processing Techniques

(Zhangping Shuixian Tea Processing Techniques)

Located in the southwest of Fujian Province, on the upper reaches of the Jiulong River (Beixi), the mountain-surrounded Zhangping enjoys rich forest resources, misty landscapes, and gorgeous agricultural ecological environment. Originally produced in Dalai, a naturally formed village in Xikou Village, Shuangyang Town, Zhangping City, Fujian Province, the Zhangping Shuixian Tea, with the more than 100-year-long history, boasts of its unique traditional tea making techniques, relatively superb, exquisite and tightly pressed tea techniques, among Chinese oolong teas. The wise Zhangping tea farmers have combined the tea-making principles of Wuyi rock tea and southern Fujian Shuixian tea, and integrated them with the local situations to create a set of unique tea-processing techniques of their own. Its highlight lies in making tea flexibly according to seasons, climate, freshness of tea leaves and other different situations, i.e. shaking tea based on the weather and on the freshness of tea leaves.

According to historical records, Zhangping farmers had the tea-planting activities as early as the early Yuan Dynasty. Later, at the beginning of the 20th century, after their trip of examining the tea planting and processing in northern Fujian, two tea farmers, Liu Yongfa and Zheng Yuguang, from Dahui Village, Ningyang County (Shuangyang Town now), introduced Shuixian tea seedlings from Shuiji, Jianzhou to be cultivated on the hillside of Niulinkeng, Dahui Village. However, as their tea processing techniques were similar to those of northern Fujian Shuixian tea, which had the delivery problem subject to moisture and deterioration caused by loosely shaped tea leaves, they added in the initial procedure a process of “kneading into shape” after kneading, which means the kneaded leaves are pressed into small round balls, fixed in paper bags and roasted to shape. Still, the pressed shapes differed in shape and size and resulted in the inconvenience of sales, so a square mold in a fixed size was invented with the odor-free wood on the mountain. After pressing the kneaded tea into a cube, packaging it with a sealed white paper and drying, a square Shuixian tea cake (also known as “paper bag tea”) is finally completed.




With an annual output of more than 5,000 kilograms, Zhangping Shuixian tea is quite popular in western Fujian, Xiamen, Guangdong, Taiwan and Southeast Asia. Its planting area, after PRC’s founding, has been expanding first from Nanyang Town, then to Chishui, Xinqiao, Wuci, Lingdi, Xinan, Xianghu, Yongfu and other towns, making its plantation as large as 45,000 thousand acres. In recent decades, under the full support of successive governments in Zhangping City and the guidance of science and technology personnel in tea industry, the inheritors of the tea-making families have carefully studied, organized, optimized and integrated the traditional techniques of Zhangping Shuixian tea to explore and formulate a complete set of standardized techniques and technical standards. Since then, the full-fledged Zhangping Shuixian tea products have won many gold medals at the provincial and national levels, building several national brands, and greatly promoting the tea industry in Zhangping City.

Although the traditional Shuixian tea making techniques were passed down through the master-apprentice model, the release from the Chinese clan-based transmission, and its integration with the Central Plains culture, mountain culture and marine culture, have helped the tea start an important construction project for ethnic harmony and the well-off society. The Oolong tea processing techniques (Zhangping Shuixian tea processing techniques) currently have 1 representative inheritor at the provincial level, 17 representative inheritors at the municipal level, and 21 representative inheritors at the Zhangping city level.

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