Sunday, June 24, 2012

Emperor's Gift


It is well known that in 1861 Col Gajraj Singh Thapa, the governor of Ilam district and a close relative of Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana, initiated the planting of tea in Ilam in east Nepal with seeds that had been given as a gift by the Chinese Emperor.

What is not clear is, who was the Chinese Emperor who gifted these precious seeds to Jang Bahadur Rana.

My guess is that it was Emperor Xianfeng 咸豐帝  who sent the tea seeds to the then Prime Minister of Nepal, Jung Bahadur Rana. At the time Nepal used to pay tribute to the Chinese Empire every five years as a result of the Treaty of Betrawati that ended the Sino Nepali wars (1788-1792). These wars are considered to be one of the Ten Great Campaigns of Qianlong Emperor 乾隆帝 (reign 1735 -1796). 

The tea seeds were possibly the return gifts from Emperor Xianfeng 咸豐帝. Someone with a knowledge of history of Nepal, and specially of Jung Bahadur Rana will have to confirm this.

Col. Gajaraj Singh Thapa is the name that is now associated with Nepali tea history. It is unlikely that even he would have envisaged this sea of green teas in Ilam district. Almost all were planted by small farmers unlike in India, just a few kilometers away, where tea is under colonial plantation culture. 

Nepalis also have to give credit to the unknown Chinese Emperor whose gift literally planted the seeds of Nepali tea industry.

Image: Tea bushes at Aitabare in Ilam exactly 150 years after the first planting of tea in Ilam.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Return to Yunoyama Onsen 湯の山温泉

This house is in a picture perfect setting. It is set against a backdrop of dark forest on a slope of a hill. Although a view to the ocean is missing, it is compensated by a babbling rivulet that runs below it. A blossoming sakura adds to its beauty. As it is located at Yunoyama Onsen the house probably has a private onsen too.  

The owner is definitely one lucky person. Gohan? Ofuro? Everything is there for the asking.

Image: At Yunoyama Onsen 湯の山温泉 in Mie Prefecture 三重県 . 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ocean of Clouds

An ocean of clouds
rolls in waves across the sky,
carrying the moon
like a boat that disappears
into a thicket of stars.

- Kakinomoto no Hitomaro (柿本人麻呂 c. 662 – 710)

Hitomaro  was a Japanese poet and aristocrat of the late Asuka period and served as court poet to at least three sovereigns: Emperor Temmu (r. 673-686), Empress Jitô (690-697) and Emperor Mommu (697-707). He was the most prominent of the poets included in the Man'yōshū, and is considered one of the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals of Japan.

Image: Dark Monsoon clouds menace Ilam Chiyabari's tea factory at Aitabare, Ilam. (2010)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Monsoon Tasting

Rain, feel it on my finger tips
Hear it on my window pane
Your love's coming down like
Rain, wash away my sorrow
Take away my pain
Your love's coming down like rain
-Madonna in "Rain" from the album Erotica. Released 17 July 1993.

As much as I like this song and video by Madonna, I love the view from the tea tasting room of Jun Chiyabari. During the monsoon one can watch the monsoon clouds on the Chulachuli and Basantapur ridges as one evaluates the teas. This is so much better than a sterile tea tasting room.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cry, the Beloved Country

Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much.
Alan Paton - Cry, the Beloved Country. 
Published in 1948.

The nude hills of Nepal captured in the first two images. Compare that to the hills and valleys fully covered by woods and forests in Japan below.


 I have never been able to understand why the most industrialised country in the world can have 70% of its land under forest cover while we, the least developed, cannot. It is not that industries and urbanisation has consumed our forest areas. It makes me want to cry at this sorry state of affairs. 

Where the forest cover is intact, like this place in Terathum, I could hear and see birds and even espy some small animals. And there was so much water! So much water!! 

" Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers......."
because I don't think that this beautiful forest cover will remain for I could already hear the crack of the axe against an old chestnut tree.
Just a few kilometres away in Dhankuta where the hills are mostly bereft of trees, water is a scarce commodity. 

"Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much."

Top: Flying over denuded Nepal with the beautiful snowy mountains to the north.
2nd from top: Denuded hills of Panchthar district
3rd from top: Hills around beautiful Mie Prefecture 三重県  fullly covered with trees
4th from top: Hills of Shizuoka Prefecture 静岡県 also fully clad in green.
5th from top: The forested hills in Hyogo Prefecture 兵庫県 in blazing autumn colours.
Bottom: Terathum District's hills with mixed forest still intact.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Purple Clouds

In the long evening,
under the edge of purple clouds,
I long to meet one
who has gone to wander
the latitudes of heaven.

Corrosive politics the world over; growing joblessness; economic gloom; stress at work or at home; nations imploding or on the brink of war......such news and events on a daily basis can be depressing and damaging to say the least. 

On the other hand such beautiful vista like a cup of good tea or a beautiful poem can bring peace to the troubled mind. To all those who wander the restless latitudes, may your minds be lifted and your souls calmed.

Image: Lake District, Cumbria

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Tale of Two Towers

It is a tale of two towers in the two cities that I like: Tokyo in Japan and Toronto in Canada. Apart from the many thing that make them great, both have iconic free standing towers whose construction were led by railway companies. The one in Toronto is already a symbol of that city's skyline. The other in Tokyo, yet to become its informal symbol.


CN Tower in downtown Toronto, Canada is 553 metres tall. When it was completed in mid 1970's it was the world's tallest free standing structure. This record was held by it for over 30 years. It is truly an iconic structure and serves as the informal symbol of Toronto. CN Tower's construction was led by Canadian National, a railway company.
Tokyo's Sky Tree's construction too was led by a railway company, Tobu Railway Co., Ltd. (東武鉄道株式会社). In March 2011 it became the tallest tower in the world at 634 metres.Will it become the iconic symbol of Tokyo like CN Tower for Toronto? It remains to be seen.

Image: Top CN Tower in Toronto (2009)
Bottom: Tokyo Sky Tree from Sensō-ji 金龍山浅草寺 Asakusa. (2012)