[[EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the third in a series of entries by Warren Peltier on Korean tea texts. For the first and second entries, click here and here. This third entry is an examination of the Dongdasong of Seon monk Cho Ui 艸衣禪師.]]
Previously, we looked at a broad overview of Korean tea books both classical and modern. When we examine the contents of Cho Ui’s book Dongdasong (Praise for Eastern Tea) 《東茶頌》, we can learn many things about Cho Ui himself. It’s apparent that he was very well versed in Chinese tea classics. He must have spent a tremendous amount of time gathering tea references, studying them, and then being inspired to write poetic verses about them. He is one of Korea’s greatest tea scholars. We should admire him for his works and contribution to tea culture and tea history. Here I provide a closer look at the general contents of the Dongdasong, a 2,300-word essay divided into 31 parts.
Part 1 is a description of the tea plant and its characteristics. Cho Ui quotes the Classic of Tea 《茶經》where Lu Yu describes the tea tree for us: “The tea tree is like the Gualu, leaves like gardenia, flower like white rose.” Gualu 瓜蘆 is also called Gaolu 臯蘆, which we know today as Kuding cha or Ilex kudingcha; the leaves of which were also prepared and drunk as tea even in ancient times. (Gualu and Gaolu are ancient words for this plant.)
Part 3 quotes Shen Nong's Classic of Food 《神農食經》: “When tea is consumed for a long time, it causes one to gain strength.” Cho Ui records the quote as coming from Yandi's Classic of Food《炎帝食經》; the two figures are sometimes regarded as being the same person. This quote comes from Chapter 7 of Lu Yu's Classic of Tea. Shen Nong's Classic of Tea, if it ever existed, is a long-lost book; only fragmentary evidence of it remains in quotes such as these.
Part 4 cites Luo Da Jing’s 羅大經 Song-dynasty poem Tea Sounds 《茶聲》:
Pine winds and juniper rains first arrive; Quickly I lift brass bottle to leave bamboo stove.
Waiting until after voices heard all fall silent; One bowl of Spring Snow surpasses fine wine.
Note: 'Pine winds and juniper rains' is a poetic way to describe the sound of boiling water. It’s like wind soughing in the pines and light rain falling on juniper branches. This is exactly the moment to remove the brass bottle (kettle) from the tea stove, in order to prevent the water temperature from rising too high for green tea. When all sounds fall silent (as from the kettle), a bowl of powdered green tea picked in early spring is sipped in quiet contemplation -- a beverage to which not even the best wine can compare.
Part 5 quotes the Er Ya's 《爾雅》definition of Jia 檟, one of the ancient characters for tea: “Jia is bitter tu”. The Guang Ya 《廣雅》 dictionary is also quoted: “In the areas of Jing and Ba the leaves are picked as a drink; aids in sobering from alcohol. It makes one sleep less. Both of these entries are found in Chapter 7 of the Classic of Tea.
Part 6 cites an anecdote about tea in the Yanzi Chunqiu 《晏子春秋》which is also recorded in Chapter 7 of the Classic of Tea. The Yanzi Chunqiu is a record of taking tea with meals, and is important because it illustrates the use of tea as a food (rather than a beverage) early on in the history of China. Yanzi Chunqiu was written in the Spring and Autumn period, around 550 BCE.
Part 7 cites the Shen Yi Ji 《神異記》, which gives a tale of picking tea. This too is recorded in the Classic of Tea, Chapter 7 《茶經七之事》 .
Part 8 quotes a story from the Yi Yuan 《異苑》 which gives a tale of offering tea to spirits. Also recorded in the Classic of Tea, Chapter 7 《茶經七之事》 .
Part 9 cites Zhang Meng Yang’s 張孟陽 poem, 'Deng Cheng Du Lou Shi' 《登成都樓詩》. Yet again, this is recorded in the Classic of Tea, Chapter 7 《茶經七之事》.
Part 10 gives an account of Sui Dynasty emperor Sui Wen Di 隨文帝 drinking tea; found in Sui Shu 《隨書》; and finding it efficacious as a medicine. Sui Shu is a history of the Sui dynasty (581-618 CE), written in the Tang.
Part 11 cites another Tang Dynasty historical record, the Yun Xian Za Ji《雲仙雜記》 by Feng Zhi 馮贄. This contains an anecdote from yet another historical record, the Man Ou Zhi 《蠻甌志》, of the custom at the Jue Lin Temple 覺林寺of producing 3 grades of tea; the highest grade, “Purple Horn Velvet Fragrance,” was reserved and used as an offering to Buddha, while the lowest-grade tea was consumed by the monks.
Part 12 gives reference to Du Yang Za Bian 《杜陽雜編》 by Su E 蘇鶚; written in the Tang Dynasty. The tea served to Princess Tong Chang 同昌公主 had nicknames like “green flower” and “purple bloom.”
Part 14 mentions Cai Xiang of the Song dynasty. And mention is made of the green cake teas called Dragon Phoenix Ball (Long Feng Tuan) 龍鳳團 of what is now the Wuyi and Jianou area of Fujian. Dragon Phoenix Ball was an Imperial Tribute Tea.
The ideas in part 15 are cited from Cai Xiang's 蔡襄 Record of Tea 《茶錄》, written in the Song; the remarks repeated are found under the heading “Fragrance.” Tea has natural fragrance and taste. Anything added to the tea (to try to improve flavor or scent) effectively spoils it.
Part 18 cites Northern Song-dynasty references from the Chuan Ming Record《荈茗錄》, written by Tao Gu 陶谷. In this book, the Wuyi area is poetically described as “countryside of vermilion mountains and green waters.” The book, part of a larger work, is divided into 18 sections which describe some interesting anecdotes during this era in tea history.
Part 21 cites Su Yi's 蘇廙 16 Grades of Hot Water 《十六湯品》, written in the Tang Dynasty. This book describes the states or condition of boiling water for tea and classifies them into 16 grades. The book expands upon the states of boiled water as described in Lu Yu’s Classic of Tea.
Part 22 quotes the Classic of Tea: “Tea has Nine Difficulties; one is manufacture, two is distinguishing quality, three is utensils, four is fire, five is water, six is roasting, seven is powder, eight is boiling, nine is drinking....” These are what Lu Yu considers as the main points to grasp in producing a satisfactory, salubrious bowl of tea.
Part 26 cites Lu Yu's Classic of Tea 《茶經》and other sources giving reference to the best growing conditions (soils, mountains) necessary to produce the finest tea; while stating which types of tea buds make the finest tea.
Part 27 gives reference to Zhang Yuan's Record of Tea. He cites the section on picking tea. In Record of Tea, picking tea the first 5 days before Gu Yu (Before the Rains) is the finest tea; second in quality is the 5 days after Gu Yu (After the Rains); inferior is the next 5 days after this period. Then, Cho Ui states for picking Eastern Tea, before or after Gu Yu is too early. But after Li Xia (Start of Summer) passes, this is the proper time to pick it. So tea-picking times vary depending on growing area.
Part 28 also cites Zhang Yuan's Record of Tea, this time citing the section on tea manufacture.
Part 29 also cites the section on Brew Method from Zhang Yuan's Record of Tea. There is also some interesting commentary added to it.
Part 30 quotes Lu Tong’s 盧仝 'Tea Song'《七碗茶歌》.
Part 31 also quotes Zhang Yuan's Record of Tea, the section titled 'Tea Drinking Method'; but perhaps a better title would be 'Tea Enjoyment Method.' This section in Zhang Yuan’s book doesn’t specifically state how tea should be drunk, but rather, with how many guests to drink tea.