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Drinking tea balances the five flavors
Doctrine of the mean
Bai Zhi
3/1/2003



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The Chinese people stress following the Doctrine of the Mean. To follow the Doctrine of the Mean does not mean to reconcile differences at the expense of sacrificing one’s principles or “mixing mud” or “bending with the wind.” Neither is it making compromises for the sake of maximizing mutual benefits. It is more like the saying, “Not to be partial is upright and not to waver is neutral.” From reading this passage, I decided that the taste of tea complies with the Doctrine of the Mean.

Chinese classify all flavors into five categories: sour, sweet, bitter, pungent and salty. Each of the five flavors corresponds to an element in the theory of the five elements, and also corresponds to different astronomical locations, times and parts of the human body. Although many people are partial to different flavors in their food and drink, they include all the five flavors in their diet. Of all the foods and beverages, tea is the only drink that has a moderate flavor, thus complying with the Doctrine of the Mean. No matter what one has just eaten, a cup of tea will balance all the flavors. This quality is perhaps the reason why tea is an antidote to many toxic substances.

Partiality to any flavor is a form of prejudice, which would then move one away from the Doctrine of the Mean. The five flavors correspond to the five elements. This means the five flavors are restricted by the principles of mutual generation and mutual inhibition. Tea, on the other hand, harmonizes all flavors, dissolves all partialities to different flavors, removes the negative effect while promoting the beneficial effect of their interaction.

The nature of tea manifests in the Doctrine of the Mean. For many people who are accustomed to strongly flavored diets, drinking tea is a good way to sooth their stomach and taste buds, and to help restore their physical and spiritual health. For those who are partial to certain flavors or strong flavors, drinking tea may cleanse their bodies.

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