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Tea

| 2018-05-31
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

In addition to their efforts in studying the science of planting, producing, making and tasting tea as well as innovating tea sets, scholars in Tang and Song dynasties associated tea with their aesthetic attitudes, spiritual pursuits and ideal personality, endowing Chinese tea culture with splendid aesthetic values and profound philosophy of life.


 

陆羽
lù yŭ
Lu Yu (733-804 ) in Tang Dynasty is respected as the Sage of Tea, or the God of Tea, for his contribution to Chinese tea culture. Lu Yu was abandoned when he was three-year old, and a Buddhist monk Zhi Ji found him by the river and raised him in the temple. Expected to study Buddhist classics, Lu found himself interested in Confucianism when he grew up. He ran away from the temple and lived a life as actor. A government official was impressed by his talent and provided him with systemic education.


When he was young, Lu had rich experience of making tea for his monk masters. This contributed to his lifelong enthusiasm for tea culture. His masterpiece Classic of Tea is the first systemic and comprehensive treatise on tea culture, including the history, origin, production, making and drinking of tea.         


 

苦口师
kŭ kŏu shī
Ku means “bitter” while kou means “mouth.” Taken literally kukou means “tasting bitter.” However, as an Chinese proverb goes, “Candid advice always sounds unpleasant, just as good medicine tastes bitter.” Therefore, kouku also means admonishing in earnest as a teacher or a friend would do. Shi means “teacher.” This idiom, taken literally, means a teacher who gives earnest but bitter advice. It is now used as another name for tea.


Pi Guangye was the son of Pi Rixiu, a well-known poet in late Tang Dynasty. Pi Guangye’s cousin once invited him to a party to taste the fresh tangerines. When Pi arrived at the party, before tasting the fresh tangerines, he asked for tea at first. After drinking a cup of tea, he composed a verse, “Not yet met Mr. Sweetening-the-Heart, I was greeted by Master Bittering-the-Mouth.” Tea is now addressed as “Master or Miss Bittering-the-Mouth.”

 

(edited by CHEN ALONG)