AMONG Shrubs, that of TEA ought to be placed in the first Rank. The Name of Tea is derived to us from the corrupt Pronunciation of two Cities in the Province of Fo kien; in the rest of the Empire it is called Tcha.
They distinguish it into Four different Sorts. The First has the Name of Song lo tcha; it grows upon a Mountain of Kiang-nan, in the Lat. of 29 Deg. 58 Min. 30. Sec. which is covered over with these Shrubs. This is the same as is called Green Tea among us. It is planted much in the same Manner as Vines, whose Growth is prevented, otherwise it would run up to seven or eight Foot in Height. In the Space of four or five Years it must be planted anew, or else the Leaf will become thick, hard and rough. The Flower is white, and in the Shape of a Rose, composed of five Leaves. In the Autumn when the Flower is gone, there appears a Berry in the Shape of a Nut, a little moist, and of no bad Taste. What I have said of the Height of these Shrubs, must be understood of those which grow in the aforesaid Province, for in other Places they suffer them to grow to then natural Height, which often reaches to ten or twelve Foot : For this Reason, while the Branches are young and tender, they cause them to bend downward, that they may gather the Leaves with greater Ease. The Song lo tcha, or Green Tea abovemention'd, preserv'd several Years is an excellent Remedy against many Distempers.
Another kind of Tea, [Vou y tcha,] grows in the Province of Fo kien, and takes it Name, from a famous Mountain therein. This Mountain, according to an Observation made upon the Spot, lies in 27, 47'. 38". of North Latitude. It is me most famous in all the Province, there are in it a great Number of Temples, Houses, and Hermitages of the Bonzes, which attract a great Concourse of People.
With a Design to make this Mountain pass for the Abode of superiour Beings, they have conveyed Barks, Chariots, and other Things of the same kind, into the Clefts of the steepest Rocks, all along the Side of a Rivulet that divides it in two : Insomuch that these fantastical Ornaments are look'd upon by the Vulgar as a real Prodigy, for they suppose that it must best Power more than Human, that has fix'd them in these inaccessible Places,
The Soil of this Mountain that produces this Plant is light, whitish and sandy. The only difference between this Tea and the former, is, that the Leaves of the former are more long and sharp pointed, the Decoction of it is Green, and Experience discovers it to be much more raking. On the contrary, the Leaves of the Latter are short, and more round, of a Colour a little Blackish, and yield a Yellow Tincture , the Taste is very smooth, and the Decoction inoffensive to the weakest Stomach. For the Reason this Tea is the most sought after, and used by the whole Empire. However it must be observed that of this Kind there are three Sorts.
The First is the tender Leaf of the Shrub, when newly Planted; this is seldom exposed to Sale, but serves to make Presents of, and to send to the Emperor. It is a kind of Imperial Tea, and is valued at about two Shillings a Pound of our Money, The Second consists of Leaves of a sensible Growth, and this is counted a very good Sort, The remaining Leaves are suffered to come to their full Bigness, which makes the Third Kind, and is exceeding Cheap, They make still another Sort of the Flower itself, but those who would have it, must bespeak it beforehand, and purchase it at an excessive Price. Notwithstanding which it makes a very insipid Tea, and is Clever used at the Emperor's Court.
There are several other Teas, which are very little different from the two Principal Kinds, but what is owing to the Nature of the Soil in which they are planted. And there are several Plants to which they give the Name of Tea, which are nothing like it. However there is a Third principal Sort, of which we can give but an imperfect Account, because Strangers are not permitted to enter the Place where it grows. It is called Pou eul tcba, from the Village Pou eul in the Province of Yun nan. Those who have been at the Foot of the Mountain, inform us that this Shrub is tall and bushy, planted without Regularity, and grows without Cultivation, The Leaves are more long and thick than those of the two former Kinds; they roll them up into a kind of Balls, and sell them at a good Price. The Taste is smooth, but not very agreeable ; when it is made Use of in the ordinary manner, it yields a reddish Tincture. The Chinese Physicians account it very Salutary, and a certain Remedy for the Colick and Fluxes, arid also very good to procure an Appetite.
There is another Tree which bears a Fruit, from whence is drawn an Excellent Oil, perhaps while fresh, the best in all the Empire. This Tree has some distant Resemblance to the Vouy tcha, with Respect to the Shape of the Leaf and the Colour of the Wood, but exceeds it very much in Height and in Thickness. They grow naturally on the Sides of Hills and in Stony Valleys. The Berries are Green, and of an irregular Figure, they contain several Kernels or Stones of no very hard Consistence.
The flowering Trees and Shrubs are very numerous in every Province. Some of the Flowers resemble Tulips, others are like Roses, which, intermixed With the Green Leaves, make a beautiful Appearance.
Among the Shrubs there are but three or four Kinds that bear odoriferous Flowers of these the double Jessamine Tree [Ma Li hoa], is the most agreeable. In the. South it attains a moderate Height, but in the North it is no more than fix Foot high, tho' it be kept in the Green-House all the Winter. The Flower in all things resembles a double Jessamine, but the Leaf is entirely different, and comes pretty near that of a young Citron-Tree.
The Tree which produces the Flowers calld Kuey boa, is very common in the Southern Provinces, but is rarely found in the Northern. The Flowers are small, of various Colours, and have a charming Scent. The Leaves are not unlike those of a Bay-Tree.
There is yet another Species of these Plants, proper to the maritime Provinces ; it bears the Flower called Lun boa. It is not so agreeable to the Sight, being of a dusky Yellow as the former, but the Scent of it is the most delicious of all.
There is a Shrub, not odoriferous, which bears a white Flower as large as a double or triple Rose. The Calix, or Cup, becomes afterwards a Fruit of the Shape of a Peach, but the Taste is altogether insipid. In its Cells it has several Pippins, or Seeds, covered with a blackish Skin, of a pretty firm Consistence.
The Pionys of China are more beautiful, and have an agreeable Smell, but the rest of their Garden-Flowers are no way comparable to ours.
The meaner Sort, who live upon little else besides Vegetables, are very careful in the cultivation of their Kitchen-Gardens, as soon as one thing is off the Ground, another is immediately sown or planted, insomuch that the Earth is never suffer'd to lie still.
Among the Pot-Herbs which we have not, there is none that deserves any Notice but the Pe-tsai, and this indeed is both useful and excellent. It has been taken for a kind of Roman Lettice, but is like it in nothing but the first Leaves ; the Seed, Flower, Taste, and Height being intirely different. The Quantities that are sown of it are almost incredible. In the Months of October and November the nine Gates of Peking are embatrassed with the Waggons that are Loaded with it. They preserve it with Salt or pickle it, and so mix it with their Rice, to which it gives a Relish.
The Medicinal Herbs, in so large an Empire, are doubtless very numerous, but I shall only take notice of the most Remarkable and the most Valuable.
Rhubarb grows in great abundance, not only in the Province of Se tchuen, but also in the Mountains of Chensi. The Flowers resemble Tufts in the shape of a Bell, jagged at the Ends; the Leaves are long, and rough to the Touch. The Root is whitish within, while fresh,; but when dryed it assumes the Colour it has when it comes to us.
The Plant that some Authors call Radix xina, and the Native Fou ling, is of all the most made use of by the Chinese Physicians. It is found in greatest Plenty in Se tchuen; its Leaves, which are long and narrow, creep upon the Ground. The Root when full grown is very thick, and, if the Natives are to be believed, has sometimes the Circumference of an Infant's Head,
But whether it be great or small, this is certain that it contains in a kind of Pod a white Pulp, a little clammy and viscous. There is a wild Sort of this Plant in several Parts of the country, which also is much used, and is sold at a much lower Rate. Some of the missionaries, who are Natives of that Part of France where Truffles are plenty, affirm that the Fou Ling is a kind of Truffle. The good Effects of this Plant are not to be doubted of, after the Experience of so great a Nation, yet it is hard to say for what Distemper it is most proper, because, like a Panacea, it is prescribed in almost all.
The Root of the Plant which is called Fen se, is not so commonly used, but is much dearer ; it is even scarce in the Province of Se tchuen where it grows, between 29 and 30 Degrees of Latitude, it is of a warm Nature, and is looked upon as an excellent Remedy for all Diseases arising from cold Humours, as also for all kinds of Obstructions. Its Shape is singular, it is semicircular on one Side, and almost flat on the other. The flat Side is fix'd to the Earth by several Filaments, and from the half Round arise several different Sterns, each of which grows up in the Form of a Nosegay . Nothing but the Root is of any Value.
Ti hoang is another Root of a very beautiful plant, which grows in greatest Plenty in the North of the Province of Ho nan, in 35°, 6'. of Lat. At first Sight one would take it for a sort of Liquorish, with a leguminous Flower, and a crooked Pod ; but when one examines the Leaves, the Seeds and the Taste, it is a hard matter to decide among what Species it ought to be placed. It is very much used to fortify and to restore by little and little the Decays of Strength.
But of all the Plants of which we have spoken, next to the Ginseng, none is so precious as the San tsi; they attribute almost the same Virtues to the one as to the other, only the latter is accounted the more efficacious in Womens Disorders, and Hemorrhagies of all Sorts. It is not at all like the Ginseng in Shape. This grows in the Province of Quang, si, and is to be found only on the Tops of high steep Mountains.
A kind of Goat of a greyish Colour is very fond of feeding upon this Plant, insomuch that they imagine the blood of this Animal is endowed with the same medicinal Properties. It is certain that the Blood of these Goats has surprizing Success against the Injuries received by Falls from Horses, and other Accidents of the same kind. This the Missionaries have had Experience of several times. One of their Servants that was thrown by a vitious Horse, and who lay some Time without Speech or Motion, was so soon recovered by this Remedy, that the next Day he was able to pursue his Journey.
It must not be forgotten that this Potion is reckoned a Specifick against the Small Pox. Instances of its Success are frequent. The black and tainted Pustules become of a fine Red, as soon as the Patient has taken the Remedy, For this Reason it is prescribed in several Disorders, which are supposed to arise from bad Qualities in the Blood. The worst Circumstance is, that it is dear and not easy to be had and seldom free from Adulteration. In the Experiments above-mentioned, the Blood of a Goat was made use of that had been taken by the Hunters.
In the Province of Yun nan are found the Trees Which bear the Cassia fistula; they are pretty tall, and the Pods are longer than those which we see in the Europe; they are not composed of two convex Shells like those Plants of the Leguminous kind, but are a sort of hollow Pipes, divided by Partitions into Cells, which contain a soft Substance no Way differing such that Cassia made use of by us.
I shall forbear to speak of the Betel-tree, though Useful against many Disorders, and several other Trees Which grow in most Parts of the Indies, such as the Banana-Tree, the Coton-Tree, and the Mango-Tree, As also of the Ananaes, and several other Plants, because they are commonly found in the Description of those Countries.
We shall only observe that the Chinese Cinnamon grows in the district of Tsin tcbeou fou, of the Province of, Qang si. It is even in China in less Esteem than that which is imported. Its Colour is more inclined to the Grey than Red, Which is the Colour of the good Cinnamon of Ceylon; it is also thicker, more tough, and not so well scented. However it has certainly the Qualities of Cinnamon, tho' in a less Degree, which is sufficiently confirmed by Experience.
It is not yet time to speak of the Simples and Drugs made use of by the Artificers of China, this will be more proper in the Natural History. However I shall just mention the Plant called Tien or Tien-hoa. It is very common, and greatly used. When it is macerated in Water, and prepared in large Tubs, it yields a Blue Colour serviceable to the Dyers. That of Fo kien gives a finer Tincture, and is in greater Esteem for a fort of Painting which they name Tan-mei.
They employ little else but the Juices of Flowers and Herbs, to Paint all kinds of Flowers and Figures upon Sattin and Sattin-Taffetaes, of which they make their Garments and various Sorts of Furniture. Theft Colours, which penetrate the Substance, never fade. They seem to be artfully Woven in, though they are only Painted in a flight Manner.