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72 segments Advanced Female
During a long day spent roaming the forest in search of edible grains and herbs, the weary divine farmer Shennong accidentally poisoned himself 72 times.
But before the poisons could end his life, a leaf drifted into his mouth. He chewed on it and it revived him, and that is how we discovered tea. Or so an ancient legend goes at least.
Tea doesn't actually cure poisonings, but the story of Shennong, the mythical Chinese inventor of agriculture, highlights tea's importance to ancient China.
Archaeological evidence suggests tea was first cultivated there as early as 6,000 years ago, or 1,500 years before the pharaohs built the Great Pyramids of Giza.
That original Chinese tea plant is the same type that's grown around the world today, yet it was originally consumed very differently. It was eaten as a vegetable or cooked with grain porridge.
Tea only shifted from food to drink 1,500 years ago when people realized that a combination of heat and moisture could create a complex and varied taste out of the leafy green. After hundreds of years of variations to the preparation method, the standard became to heat tea, pack it into portable cakes, grind it into powder, mix with hot water, and create a beverage called muo cha, or matcha. Matcha became so popular that a distinct Chinese tea culture emerged.
Tea was the subject of books and poetry, the favorite drink of emperors, and a medium for artists. They would draw extravagant pictures in the foam of the tea, very much like the espresso art you might see in coffee shops today.
In the 9th century during the Tang Dynasty, a Japanese monk brought the first tea plant to Japan. The Japanese eventually developed their own unique rituals around tea, leading to the creation of the Japanese tea ceremony. And in the 14th century during the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese emperor shifted the standard from tea pressed into cakes to loose leaf tea.
At that point, China still held a virtual monopoly on the world's tea trees, making tea one of three essential Chinese export goods, along with porcelain and silk. This gave China a great deal of power and economic influence as tea drinking spread around the world. That spread began in earnest around the early 1600s when Dutch traders brought tea to Europe in large quantities.
Many credit Queen Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese noble woman, for making tea popular with the English aristocracy when she married King Charles II in 1661. At the time, Great Britain was in the midst of expanding its colonial influence and becoming the new dominant world power. And as Great Britain grew, interest in tea spread around the world. By 1700, tea in Europe sold for ten times the price of coffee and the plant was still only grown in China.
The tea trade was so lucrative that the world's fastest sailboat, the clipper ship, was born out of intense competition between Western trading companies.
All were racing to bring their tea back to Europe first to maximize their profits.
At first, Britain paid for all this Chinese tea with silver. When that proved too expensive, they suggested trading tea for another substance, opium.
This triggered a public health problem within China as people became addicted to the drug. Then in 1839, a Chinese official ordered his men to destroy massive British shipments of opium as a statement against Britain's influence over China. This act triggered the First Opium War between the two nations. Fighting raged up and down the Chinese coast until 1842 when the defeated Qing Dynasty ceded the port of Hong Kong to the British and resumed trading on unfavorable terms. The war weakened China's global standing for over a century.
The British East India company also wanted to be able to grow tea themselves and further control the market. So they commissioned botanist Robert Fortune to steal tea from China in a covert operation. He disguised himself and took a perilous journey through China's mountainous tea regions, eventually smuggling tea trees and experienced tea workers into Darjeeling, India. From there, the plant spread further still, helping drive tea's rapid growth as an everyday commodity.
Today, tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water, and from sugary Turkish Rize tea, to salty Tibetan butter tea, there are almost as many ways of preparing the beverage as there are cultures on the globe.
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  |  9171 learners#Culture #Stories

Halloween is a popular festival in many countries all over the world, and every year it seems to get bigger. It's getting dark earlier and it's starting to get cold. Christmas is still a long way away. We need something to cheer us up and take our minds off the fact that winter is nearly here. Find out some more about the traditional festival of Halloween.

The festival of Halloween has its roots in Celtic and Roman traditions. Over 2000 years ago the Celts in Britain, Ireland and parts of France celebrated Samhain to mark the beginning of winter. When the Romans invaded, they merged this with Feralia, their celebration of the passing of the dead. As Christianity spread, the Church tried to replace these pagan feasts with official Church holy days. One of these was November 1. It was called All Saints Day, or All Hallows, and October 31 was known as All Hallows Eve, and then Halloween.

In the past there was a tradition called souling. Poor people went around houses asking for food. In exchange, they promised to say prayers for the dead. People no longer go souling, but the habit has been transformed into a modern Halloween game for children in America, who dress up as ghosts, witches and monsters and go around people's houses, asking for sweets. This game is called Trick or Treat.

Halloween wouldn't be fun without witches. Witches have always been part of popular folklore. Shakespeare's play Macbeth opens with three witches. A witch was someone, usually a woman, who had special powers and had dealings with the devil. The American town, Salem, in the state of Massachusetts, is famous for the witchcraft trials, which took place there in 1692.

The pumpkin has become a symbol of Halloween. People empty a pumpkin, cut a face into the side, and put a candle inside to make a lamp. It's known as a Jack-o'-lantern, from an Irish legend about a man called Jack, who made a deal with the devil.

Black cats, frogs, mice and spiders are just some of the animals associated with Halloween. Generally, the more unpleasant the animal, the stronger the Halloween connection. Nocturnal animals like bats are particular favourites, and if, as is the case with vampire bats, they like drinking blood, they are high on the Halloween list.
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  |  10039 learners#Culture #Essays

What is April Fool's Day and what are its origins? It is commonly believed that in medieval France, New Year was celebrated on 1 April. Then in 1562, Pope Gregory introduced a new calendar for the Christian world, changing New Year to 1 January. With no modern communications, news travelled slowly and new ideas were often questioned. Many people did not hear of the change, others chose to ignore it, while some merely forgot. These people were called fools. Invitations to non-existent New Year parties were sent and other practical jokes were played. This jesting evolved over time into a tradition of playing pranks on 1 April. The custom eventually spread to England and Scotland, and it was later transported across the Atlantic to the American colonies of the English and the French. April Fools Day has now developed into an international festival of fun, with different nationalities celebrating the day in special ways.

In France and Italy, if someone plays a trick on you, you are the fish of April. By the month of April fish have only just hatched and are therefore easy to catch. Children stick paper fish to their friends' backs and chocolate fish are found in the shops.

In Scotland, April Fools Day lasts for two days! The second day is called Taily Day and tricks on this day involve the bottom or the tail in informal speech. Often a sign saying kick me is stuck onto someone's back without them knowing.

In Spain and Mexico, similar celebrations take place on 28 December. The day is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Originally, the day was a sad remembrance of the slaughter of the innocent children by Herod in his search for the baby Jesus. It eventually changed to a lighter commemoration of innocence involving pranks and trickery.

Today, Americans and the British play small tricks on friends and strangers alike on 1 April. A common trick is to point to a friend's shoe and say Your shoelace is untied. When they look down, they are laughed at. Schoolchildren might tell a friend that school has been cancelled. A bag of flour might be balanced on the top of a door so that when the victim opens the door, the flour empties over their head. Sometimes the media gets involved. Once, a British short film was shown on April Fools Day about spaghetti farmers and how they harvest their crop from spaghetti trees!

Most April Fool jokes are in good fun and not meant to harm anyone. The best trick is the one where everyone laughs, especially the person upon whom the joke has been played.

Two British policemen were sent to investigate a glowing flying saucer on 31 March, the day before April Fool's Day. When the policemen arrived at a field in Surrey, they saw a small figure wearing a silver space suit walking out of a spacecraft. Immediately the police ran off in the opposite direction. Reports revealed that the alien was in fact a midget, and the flying saucer was a hot air balloon that had been specially built to look like a UFO by Richard Branson, the 36-year-old chairman of Virgin Records.

Branson had planned to land the balloon in London's Hyde Park on 1 April. However, a wind change had brought him down in a Surrey field. The police were bombarded with phone calls from terrified motorists as the balloon drifted over the motorway. One lady was so shocked by the incident that she didn't realise that she was standing naked in front of her window as she was describing the UFO to a radio station.
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  |  10140 learners#Culture #Essays

Today, in the early twenty-first century, most countries no longer have kings and queens. However, some countries have remained as monarchies, including England and its former colonies. However, even in these countries, the monarch is a ceremonial figure who no longer has any real power over his or her subjects. These countries are called constitutional monarchies because they are democracies in which the monarch remains the official head of state.

Many years ago, the kings and queens of England did have real power, but gradually this power was transferred to the people and their elected officials. It is interesting to examine how this transition occurred. Even in very early times, the king of England did not have absolute power. He was the most powerful man in the country, but he could not entirely force his will upon others. If he became too demanding, he might face opposition from powerful local land-owners. These men, called the barons, might resist a king who tried to become too strong. This is exactly what happened in the year 1215. The king of England had made many unreasonable demands upon the country, and the barons decided to resist. They forced the king to agree to a list of rules that would limit his power. These rules were written in a famous document called the Magna Carta. This document described not only the rights of the barons, but also of the common people of England.

During the next few hundred years, the kings still had much power. However, some other people, such as the landowners and the richer men of the towns, also had influence. Their meetings became known as Parliaments, and the king had to share power with the parliament. During the 1640s, one king tried to rule without Parliament, and tried to take away the rights of Parliament. This led to a civil war, and the king was defeated. England soon became a monarchy again, but it became clear that Parliament would have more power than the king. Until the twentieth century, the Parliaments of England became more democratic, as more and more people were allowed to vote.

Today, England still has a constitutional monarchy. But not all English-speaking countries recognize the English queen. For example, the United States became an independent country over 200 years ago and has become a republic ever since. In some countries, there is debate about the future of the monarchy. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand still recognize the queen of England as their own queen even though those countries are no longer governed by England. Many people in those countries want to abolish the monarchy. They believe that their countries should now have their own head of state. On the other hand, some people in those countries want to keep the monarchy because it reminds them of their country's early history. This is an ongoing topic of debate for Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders.
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  |  9191 learners#Culture #Essays

In most English-speaking countries, a person who is accused of a crime has the right to a trial by jury. In a trial by jury, the guilt or innocence of the accused person is decided by a group of 12 people, called jurors, who must listen to the evidence about the case. The idea of trial by jury is over 800 years old, but there was a time when criminal cases were decided in other ways.

Today, many of these methods seem ridiculous and cruel. Many accused people were forced to undergo a trial by ordeal. There were several different kinds of this trial. For example, in the ordeal by fire, an accused man was forced to carry a red-hot piece of iron in his hand. People believed that if the men were innocent then the gods would protect him, and his hand would not be burned or blistered by the iron. Another form of the trial by ordeal was the ordeal by combat. If one person accused another of a crime, they would be forced to fight each other with some weapon.

People believed that the gods would help the man who was right and allow him to win the fight. Yet another kind of ordeal was the ordeal by water. If a woman was accused of a crime, such as witchcraft, she might be thrown into a river with rocks attached to her. People believed that the gods would help an innocent woman and allow her to float on the water. Gradually, people realized that the trial by ordeal was a completely worthless way to judge a person's innocence or guilt. They wanted a less barbaric way to decide criminal cases. During the twelfth century, a new method was introduced by one of the kings of England, Henry the Second. Henry said that criminal cases should be decided by the opinions of twelve honest men who knew about the crime, the victim, and the accused person. This was the beginning of trial by jury in English-speaking countries, and the method soon became very popular. People trusted this new method much more than they trusted the old methods. Later, the system of trial by jury changed somewhat. Instead of having a jury of twelve men and women who knew about the crime, juries were chosen so that the twelve people did not know anything about the crime. This change ensures that the jurors do not have any bias or prejudice about the case. When jurors do not know any of the people involved in the case, their decisions are more likely to be fair and accurate.

Today, citizens in many countries are called occasionally for jury duty. This can be inconvenient for people who are busy with their work and family life. However, many men and women are willing to serve on juries because of a feeling of responsibility to society. The use of juries in criminal cases helps to ensure that justice is done.
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  |  9030 learners#Culture #Essays

There have been many great writers in the history of English literature, but there is no doubt about which writer was the greatest. Many people consider William Shakespeare to have been the best writer who ever lived.

William Shakespeare was born in the town of Stratford, England, in the year 1564. When he was a young man, Shakespeare moved to the city of London, where he began writing plays. His plays were soon very successful, and were enjoyed both by the common people of London and also by the rich and famous. In addition to his plays, Shakespeare wrote many short poems and a few long poems.

Like his plays, these poems are still famous today. Shakespeare's most famous plays include Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Julius Caesar. Usually, Shakespeare did not invent the stories that he told in his plays. Instead, he wrote his plays using stories that already existed. However, Shakespeare's plays told these stories in a more interesting way than ever before. Some of the stories were tragedies, some were comedies, some described historical events. In his plays, Shakespeare revealed a very wide knowledge of many areas of life.

The characters in his plays discuss many different topics, often with the knowledge of experts. But what is even more impressive about these plays is Shakespeare's use of the English language. His vocabulary was very large, and Shakespeare seems to have introduced many words to the language. Also, many of the phrases that are said by Shakespeare's characters are now used in everyday conversation.

Today, writers often use quotations from Shakespeare's plays in their own works. But perhaps even the most impressive features of Shakespeare's plays are the characters within them. The many characters in his plays seem very different from each other, but they seem very realistic. The emotions they feel, the words they say, and the actions they perform are all easily understood.

Many people who watch one of Shakespeare's plays will find that they know people who remind them somewhat of the characters in those plays. Shakespeare died in the year 1619, but his writings are still popular today, 400 years after they were written. The poems and plays are greatly admired by experts in literature, but also by people in general. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people enjoy attending performances of Shakespeare's plays. No other writer in the English language has remained so popular for such a long time.
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  |  9084 learners#Culture #Biography

About a thousand years ago, people known as the Vikings were known and feared throughout Europe. The Vikings were the people of the northern part of Europe, called Scandinavia, which includes the modern countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The Vikings made their living by farming and fishing.

However, by about the year 700, they began making attacks, or raids, upon towns along the coasts of Europe in order to steal the wealth of those towns. The Vikings made their attacks very quickly and without any warning. They were very cruel to the people of the towns they attacked, and they sometimes destroyed the towns by burning down the buildings. In some parts of Europe, the local kings would often fight against the Vikings. Sometimes, however, the kings would pay the Vikings in order to persuade them not to attack.

Although the Vikings were known as fierce warriors, they also built excellent ships. The wooden Viking ships, called longboats, were able to sail even in very bad weather. Many Viking longboats were about 20 metres long, but some were nearly 90 metres long. The Viking sailors used both sails and oars to move their ships. The Vikings travelled across a large area. They made many of their attacks in Britain, France, and Germany, but sometimes sailed south, into the Mediterranean Sea. Other Vikings moved to the east, and then sailed along the rivers of Russia. Some even went as far as the area that is now the country of Turkey. In some places, the Vikings decided to stay. Many Vikings settled in England and in France, and eventually they mixed with the local people. Other Vikings settled in Russia and also mixed with the people there. The most famous travels of the Vikings were in the Atlantic Ocean. Vikings sailed westward to the island of Iceland where many of them stayed.

Today, the people of Iceland are descended from the Vikings. Some Vikings sailed farther west to the cold island of Greenland. Vikings lived in Greenland for several generations, but eventually they died out. Some Vikings had gone even further west and reached the Canadian island of Newfoundland. The Vikings only stayed for a few years, but they had reached North America about 500 years before Christopher Columbus. Gradually, the Vikings became converted to the Christian religion. They also stopped raiding the towns of Europe, and instead of fighting, they began trading with their neighbors. Today, the Scandinavian countries are known as very peace loving nations.
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  |  9472 learners#Culture #Essays

Christmas, observed on December 25 is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Christians of different denominations go to church on Christmas. Many Catholics go to midnight mass. In the United States, however, the holiday has a much more secular tone and is celebrated throughout the country.

Many people, regardless of their religion, put up and decorate a Christmas tree. The tree can be a real evergreen or it can be an artificial tree. Lights, strings, tinsel, and even popcorn can be used to decorate a Christmas tree. On the top of the tree is a star or an angel. The decorations are usually red and green. The purpose of a Christmas tree is to have a central location to place gifts. According to legend, a jolly fat man with a beard named Santa Claus, leaves presents under the tree. Children in the US often write lists of things they want Santa to bring them. Many parents bring their children to shopping malls across the country to tell a man dressed as Santa what they want. These children are often also photographed with the mall Santa as a keepsake. On Christmas Eve many children leave milk and cookies for Santa.

Of course it is the parents that buy the gifts from the wish lists, and even eat the cookies and drink the milk. On Christmas Day children usually wake up early and run to the tree so they can see what Santa brought them. Adults can also exchange gifts at this time. People don't just decorate a tree at Christmas. Many also elaborately decorate their homes with lights. Some of the displays are even synchronized to Christmas songs called carols. Originally these songs were religious, but now they are about the spirit of the season.
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  |  8918 learners#Culture #Essays

New Year's Day officially begins as soon as people yell. Happy New Year at midnight. Most people continue partying well after midnight into the wee hours of the first day of the new year. In fact, many New Year's parties include breakfast or brunch. Sometimes at the stroke of midnight there will be fireworks and couples often kiss.

One of the most famous New Year's celebrations takes place in New York City's Time Square where a huge cut crystal ball drops at midnight in front of millions of people standing in the cold. Many more millions watch on television. Some groups, called Polar Bear Clubs jump into the cold ocean water on New Year's Day as a literal way to start the new year fresh. New Year's Day, January 1, is a national holiday in the United States. This means that schools, banks, government offices, and post offices are closed. Given how much people tend to drink alcohol on New Year's Eve. Many people wake up on New Year's Day with a hangover. The national holiday is a good day to recover. Many people go out partying with their friends on New Year's Eve. Many people use New Year's Day to visit family members.

New Year's Day is also when many people start on their New Year's resolutions. A resolution is a promise to change a lifestyle habit. The most common resolution is to lose weight. Many people also join gyms as part of their resolutions. On New Year's Day there are also parades such as the famous Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, where all the floats are made of different colored roses and they compete for awards. Many people also watch college and professional football games, including the Rose Bowl, which is also held in Pasadena, California.
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