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.

1 comment:

  1. "Gardening requires lots of water - most of it in the form of perspiration."
    - Lou Erickson