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Tea Poems

THE WAY OF TEA

A friend presented me
With tender leaves of Oolong tea,
For which I chose a kettle
Of ivory-mounted gold,
A mixing-bowl of snow-white earth.
With its clear bright froth and fragrance,
It was like the nectar of Immortals.
The first bowl washed the cobwebs from my mind -
The whole world seemed to sparkle.
A second cleansed my spirit
Like purifying showers of rain,
A third and I was one of the Immortals -
What need now for austerities
To purge our human sorrows?
Worldly people, by going in for wine,
Sadly deceive themselves.
For now I know the Way of Tea is real.

Chio Jen (Tang Dynasty)

TIMES FOR DRINKING TEA

In idle moments
When bored with poetry
Thought confused
Beating time to songs
When the music stops
Living in seclusion
Enjoying scholarly pastimes
Conversing late at night
Studying on a sunny day
In the bridal chamber
Detaining favored quests
Playing host to scholars or pretty girls
Visiting friends returned from far away
In perfect weather
When skies are overcast
Watching boats glide past on the canal
Midst trees and bamboos
When flowers bud and birds chatter
On hot days by a lotus pond
Burning incense in the courtyard
After tipsy guests have left
When the youngsters have gone out
On visits to secluded temples
When viewing springs and scenic rocks

from Ch'a Shu (Book of Tea)
by Hsü Jan-Ming

A Commentary on Art of drinking Tea

     The great Sung Dynasty poet Su Tung-po was a serious practicioner of Zen as well as a dedicated  connoisseur of tea, and he understood the  meaning of the maxim "Tea and Zen are one taste." He is often quoted as an authority on the true spirit and essential nature of the Chinese Art of Tea.

     Being a poet, and poets being who they are, Su saw a lot more than esoteric Zen teachings in his cup of tea.  Sipping a particularly beautiful tea in a particularly beautiful garden with a few good friends and fellow connoisseurs of tea one afternoon,  he suddenly set down his tea cup, picked up his writing brush, and dashed off a seven-character line that has become a favorite line about the beauty of tea  among Chinese aficionados of tea. It appears frequently inscribed on tea pots, tea caddies, tea trays, and tea scrolls:

tsung lai jia ming seh jia ren

 

"It has always been true that in every way

 the beauty of tea

is exactly like the beauty of a woman."

 

     Beautiful tea always looks good, always smells good, always tastes good, feels good, and is good for you.   It can also be fickle, it always requires special attention to bring out its best,  it must be waited for before it's ready, and it has some traits that defy logical explanation.