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Discovering Chinese culture in a tea cup

By Li Wenrui | | Updated: 2018-01-17 09:29
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Hugh Henry talks with students of the tea art college about Chinese tea in December, 2017. [Photo provided to]

Henry has many experiences traveling the world. He and his family once lived in Germany and Japan and visited many other countries. But among all the places he has been, China holds a special attachment to him because of his mother and her family.

"My first impressions of China came long before I arrived here. My mother's earliest memories in life are when her family arrived for a two-year stay in Beijing in 1937, three days after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident."

"She taught me to use chopsticks and often talked about her experiences living in the Beijing Legation Quarter. Going to my grandparents' house in California as a child was like visiting a Chinese museum," he recalled.

Henry tends to live the Chinese pastoral life portrayed in Pearl S. Buck's novel, The Good Earth. The book, depicting the story of ordinary Chinese farmers, was extremely popular in the US during the 1930s and won a Pulitzer in 1932.

"[It] made a deep impression on me," Henry said. "She wrote that book from a perspective of an insider, or an outsider living in China, but she really understood China. It gave the Western world a window [to know China]. For me, I want to live in a world that book talked about and it made me very interested in farming, too."

After two unsuccessful planting trials in California and South China's Guangzhou, he finally figured out the right climate and techniques to grow tea trees. Now, he has tea trees, which were brought from a nearby county three years ago, sprouting tea seeds on his balcony.

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