The Seventh Cup, Indeed!

14 01 2009

cha5The purpose of this site is to discuss and praise fine tea, mostly fine Chinese tea. Please bring your tea stories here. Tell us about the lovely teas you have found, help us taste them with you. [Please, no offense intended, but this site is for the praise of Camellia sinesis–tea–no herbals, please. Those are “tisanes.”]

 

There follows perhaps the most famous poem ever written about tea. We usually only see the last two parts.

 

 

Translator John Blofeld says about this poem,“Unable to translate it in a manner that does it real justice, I can but offer a semi-metric rendering.”

 

The Song of Tea

(Thanks to Imperial Censor Mêng for his Gift of Freshly Picked Tea)

by Lu T’ung (The Tea Doter)

 

1

I was lying lost in slumber as the morning sun climbed high,

When my dreams were shattered by a thunderous knocking at the door.

An officer had brought a letter from the imperial censor,

Its three great seals slanting across the white silk cover.

Opening it, I read some words that brought him vividly to mind.

He wrote that he was sending three hundred catties of moon-shaped cakes of tea,

For a road had been cut at the year’s beginning to a special tea garden.

Such tea! And plucked so early in the year, when insects had scarcely begun their chatter,

When spring breezes had just begun to blow

And spring flowers dared not open,

As the emperor still awaited

The annual toll of Yang-hsien tea!

 

2

Ah, how wonderful that tea, plucked ere the kindly breeze

Had swept away the pearling frost upon its leaves

And the tiny leaf-buds shone like gold!

Being packed when fresh and redolent of firing,

Its essential goodness had been cherished, instead of wasted.

Such tea was intended for the court and high nobility;

How had it reached the hut of a humble mountain-dweller?

 

3

To honour the tea, I shut my brushwood gate,

Lest common folk intrude,

And donned my gauze cap

To brew and taste it on my own.

 

4

The first bowl sleekly moistened throat and lips,

The second banished all my loneliness,

The third expelled the dullness from my mind,

Sharpening inspiration gained from all the books I’ve read.

The fourth brought forth light perspiration,

Dispersing a lifetime’s troubles through my pores.

The fifth bowl cleansed ev’ry atom of my being.

The sixth has made me kin to the Immortals.

The seventh is the utmost I can drink—

A light breeze issues from my armpits.

 

5

Where are those Isles of Immortals whither I am bound?

I, Master Jade Spring, will ride upon this breeze

To the place where the Immortals alight upon the earth,

Guarded by their divinity from wind and rain.

How can I bear the fate of countless beings

Born to bitter toil amid the towering peaks?

I must ask Censor Mêng if he can tell

Whether those beings will ever be allowed to rest.

 

Translation © John Blofeld 1985

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Photo by Jason C.S. Chen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know the following video is Japanese, not Chinese, but it is so cute!

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