|Charissa Echavez |||May 15, 2016 11:02 AM EDT|
(Photo : Getty Images) A tea parching farmer parches fresh tea leaves in a heated pot on March 9, 2007 in the outskirts of Chongqing Municipality, China.
The world's oldest tea leaves, which was excavated from an ancient Chinese emperor's tomb, is set to be exhibited in a museum in northwestern China starting Wednesday, May 18, Zhang Yun, the museum's deputy director, said.
The 2,100-year-old tea leaves were discovered by the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology while investigating the Han Yang Ling Mausoleum between 1998 and 2005. It will be put on display at the Hanyang Mausoleum Museum in Shaanxi Province's Xi'an.
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The tea leaves, which has been officially recognized by the Guinness World Record as the oldest in the world, was found buried with Emperor Jing (188-141 BC), the father of Emperor Wu. His reign was one of China's most prosperous, according to Xinhua news agency. The area where the leaves were discovered was called Chang'an during the Han Dynasty and marked a starting point of the ancient trade route network called the Silk Road.
The tea mixed with grains was initially discovered in 2005. However, the fossilized leaves was only confirmed as tea in 2015 after archaeologists used microfossil plant analysis techniques to test the samples.
"The analysis results showed that the remains were all dried tea sprouts when they were buried," researcher Yang Wuzhan said. He noted the leaves support theories of ancient Chinese' drinking habits during the Western Han Dynasty (207BCE-9CE) and it will play a significant role in the history of Chinese tea culture.
In ancient China, tea leaves were an important commodity. They served various purposes including being drunk as a beverage, mixed in meals, and even as herbal medicine.
In Chinese culture, mourners are known to bury things with the deceased in the belief their deceased relatives will use the items in the afterlife.
Other keepsakes found in the emperor's tomb include pots, chariots with several horses, and other animals like pigs, cows, dogs, sheep.
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