Long ago in the Hangzhou region of the Zhejiang province of Ancient China, a small town of poor tea farmers were in the grip of a great drought. With no rain, the leaves of the ancient tea plants began to yellow and fall to the cracking soil. As the days went on, and no sign of rain was apparent, they decided to hold a town meeting.

The elders of the town chose a young man to climb to the top of a nearby mountain where, they were told by their grandparents’ grandparents, an old water dragon had once built a nest.

For three grueling days the young man traversed the perilous incline, sleeping sparsely under the increasingly waning verdure. dragonwellEarly on the fourth day, he wearily trudged over yet another hill and peered the peak. He rushed to the top of the mountain, excited to finally find the dragon and save his town. All he found, however, was an age-worn half-collapsed shrine, made of rocks he had not seen before, and a dark, empty well.

No dragon was in sight.

Disheartened, he fell to the ground, kneeling to the shrine. All day and all night the young man prostrated himself to the broken altar, until he could keep his eyes open no longer. As he slept, he dreamed of a great beast that swirled in the clouds, gathering them together and swirling them in a frenzy. He saw the clouds change from a pillowy white to a dark, lugubrious gray.

He was awoken by the heavy drops quickly soaking his clothes. The land, as far as he could see on the high peak, was being drenched with a life-saving precipitation. As he walked over to the well beside the altar, he noticed that it was now full, and the different layers of water seemed to swirl round and around each other, like a dragon chasing his own tail.

He returned to his village to find that the tea crops were saved and happy, day-to-day life had returned.

an old wellHe never spoke to any of his fellow villagers of his dreams or what he witnessed on that high mountain peak, but at least once a year he returned to the summit to pray at the broken altar. Every year he noticed, even as his bones grew brittle and his body weak, that the well next to the shrine never seemed to lose any water, and the swirling layers moved endlessly as the dragon endeavored to catch that tail.

Before he joined his ancestors, the (now) old man passed his story along to his 24 grandchildren.  It quickly became a tradition in the town to, at least once a year, take the trip up the mountain to pay homage to the altar and the well with the water dragon, which became known as the Lung Ching, or Dragon Well.

As the incredible story of the young man and the dragon spread throughout the land, the village itself, as well as the tea that it produced, became known as Dragonwell – a green tea that is still cherished and honored to this day.