Tea and the Materia Medica of Tao Hongjing

Hulu jushi fanyi






Tao Hongjing of the Liang dynasty
Baiying and Kucai

Baiying 白英, white flower. Its taste is sweet, its medicinal character is cold, and it is not poisonous. It cures chills and fever, the eight jaundices, indigestion and thirst, restores equilibrium and benefits qi 氣, the life force. Prolonged use lightens the body and extends life. One name for it is gucai 谷菜, herb of the valley; another name is baicao 白草, white herb. It is produced in the mountains and valleys of Yizhou. In spring season, pick the leaves; in summer, pick the stems; in autumn, pick the flowers, and in winter, pick the roots. The various prescriptions do not prescribe it, for it is only a food staple cooked in water for people to drink. It only grows in mountains and valleys…there is also baicao 白草, white herb, the leaves make soup to drink to relieve fatigue; however, the roots and flowers are not used. Only Yizhou has kucai 苦菜, a beverage drunk by the natives that promotes health and prevents disease. This is undoubtedly the case.


Portrait of Tao Hongjing

Portrait of Tao Hongjing as a Daoist

梁 陶弘景








Herb category of medicinals
Fruit, herbs, rice, and grains: nominal drugs of no practical application
Kucai 苦菜, bitter herb tea
Superior grade

Its taste is bitter, its medicinal character is cold, and it is not poisonous. It cures the five visceral organs and diseases, relieves gastric obstructions caused by eating grain, alleviates indigestion, intestinal distress, thirst, fever, and ulcers of the skin. Prolonged use calms the heart, benefits qi 氣 – the life force – quickens perception, lessens sleep, lightens the body, delays old age, dispels cold and hunger, and stays the decline of talent and the sublime nature. One name is tuku 荼苦; one, is xuan 選; and another, is youdong 遊冬. It grows in the mountains and valleys of Yizhou. It grows in the mountains and hills and along the roads. It lives through winter and does not die. It is picked on the third day of the third lunar month and dried in the shade. This herb is likely what is now known as ming 茗. One name for ming 茗 is tu 荼. It causes sleeplessness. It too does not wither in winter and is doubtless the same as that which grows in Yizhou. Only Yizhou has kucai 苦菜, which as stated is bitter. This herb kucai 苦菜 is already commented on in the entry of the herb baiying 白英, white flower, in the superior category of the first volume. It is written in the Record of Medicines by Master Tong that “the leaves of kucai 苦菜 grow lush in the third lunar month; in the sixth lunar month, flowers follow the growth of leaves; the stems are straight and the flowers, yellow; in the eighth lunar month, the seeds blacken; when the seeds fall, the roots extend their growth; in winter, the plant does not dry up. The present herb ming 茗 truly resembles this herb kucai 苦菜. The ming 茗 teas of Xiyang and Wuchang are comparable to those of Lujiang and Jinxi: they are all excellent. Easterners make only green ming 茗 tea. Ming 茗 tea is always beneficial. Of all beverages, ming 茗 tea compares with the edible leaves of various trees, asparagus sprouts, and china root: all are beneficial, bountiful, and valuable for their cooling properties. Badong has zhentu 真荼 tea, the leaves of which when fired twist and knot; these are made into a drink that causes sleeplessness. Zhentu 真荼 is undoubtedly similar to all these very teas. Now, the brewing of beautiful leaves to make tu 荼 tea compares with the herbal made of large black plums and its cooling effects. Nanfang has gualu mu 瓜蘆木, the wild tea tree, which is similar to ming 茗 tea in bitterness and astringency; the leaves are taken and crumpled into bits, brewed, and the liquor drunk. In consequence, there is sleeplessness all night long; indeed, for wakefulness the salt workers depend only on this drink. Along the breadth of all relationships, tea is of the utmost importance; first serve when guests arrive and add fragrant herbs.”


梁 陶弘景




Tao Hongjing 陶弘景 (456-536), comp., “Baiying 白英” and “Kucai 苦菜),” Bencao jing jizhu 本草經集注 (Collected Commentaries to the Materia Medica), juan 3 and 7.



Artist unknown
Portrait of Tao Hongjing as a Daoist, detail
Yuan dynasty, 14th century
Album leaf: ink and color on paper
National Palace Museum, Taipei


24. October 2015 by Steven D. Owyoung
Categories: Literature, Translation |

Inscription for the Gentleman of Principle

Hulu jushi fanyi






Sheng Yong of the Ming dynasty
Inscription for the Gentleman of Principle

Shaped like the vault of Heaven and the square of Earth:
Bamboo sheathed metal, bamboo wrapped clay.
Within, a lively fire burns,
Bearing sounds of waves on the river Xiang.
One drop of sweet dew
Cleanses my poetic core.
A pure wind sweeps beneath my sleeves,
Carrying me beyond the realm and into the Void.



明 盛颙





Sheng Yong 盛颙 (1418-1492), “Kujie jun ming 苦節君銘 (Inscription for the Gentleman of Principle, 1478)” from Qian Chunnian 錢椿年 (active ca. 1530-1535) and Gu Yuanqing 顧元慶 (1487–1565), Chapu 茶譜 (Treatise on Tea, 1541) in Zhongguo lidai chashu huibian jiaozhu ben 中國歷代茶書匯編校注本 (Annotated Compilation of Tea Books of Dynastic China), Zheng Peikai 鄭培凱 and Zhu Zizhen 朱自振 (1934–present), comps. (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 2014), p. 181.



23. August 2015 by Steven D. Owyoung
Categories: Literature, Translation |

Two Encomia on the Ten Perfections of Tea

Hulu jushi fanyi






Wen Zhengming 1534

Wen Zhengming 1534

Wen Zhengming of the Ming dynasty
Two Encomia on the Ten Perfections of Tea


Tea Sprouts

The east wind blows across the russet tea,
In a single night it grows an inch.
A floral mist splits the heavy jade leaves,
Clouds gently congeal their tender fragrance.
The morning harvest fills less than a hand,
Returning in the evening, scolded for upsetting the tea basket.
The leaves, precious as yellow gold;
Transport the proffered tribute before the spring festival.



Spring flowers fall, hiding the courtyard,
A gentle wind calms the meditation room.
Tend the fire to boil fresh spring water.
The cold moon floats round and shadowy.
Sleepless, yet ever writing of the worthy,
Faithful to the eternal emotions.
Wandering immortals flit about the brazier,
Effortlessly entering the spirit realm.
















Wen Zhengming 文徵明 (1470-1559), “Chashi tu 茶事圖 (The Art of Tea, 1534),” Shiqu baoji xubian 石渠寶笈續編 (Sequel to the Treasure Coffers of the Stone Moat, 1793), Wang Jie 王杰 (1725–1805) et al., comps. (Taipei: Guoli Gugong bowu yuan, 1971), vol. 2, pp. 1051–1052.


Wen Zhengming 文徵明 1470–1559)
Chashi tu 茶事圖 (Art of Tea, 1534)
Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
National Palace Museum, Taipei





30. July 2015 by Steven D. Owyoung
Categories: Literature, Literature, Translation |

Song of Coveting Tea

Hulu jushi fanyi






Wu Kuan of the Ming dynasty
Song of Coveting Tea

I, Elder of the Brew, love tea as I love wine,
Three pints or fifty – there’s no counting.
Beginning in the tea room, there are no unnecessary things:
Just a tea stove and a tea pounder.
Here, there is nothing ever to do but brew tea.
All day long, the tea cup never leaves my lips.
Assisting today’s gathering, a single tea server;
Coming through the door, my guest, a true tea friend.
To express thanks for tea, emulate the poem of Lu Tong;
To brew tea, follow the ode of Huang Jiu.
The Sequel to the Book of Tea, I lend to no one.
The Addenda to the Tea Register, I let slip from the hand:
I will have nothing to do with planting mundane tea.
I know only the few acres of tea garden below this mountain.
Some people merely dream of roaming the tea country,
But I, right here and now, simply do nothing else.


明 吳寬





Wu Kuan 吳寬 (1435-1504), “Aicha ge 愛茶歌 (Song of Coveting Tea),” Paoweng jia cangji 匏翁家藏集 (Collection of the Paoweng Family Treasures), (Shanghai: Hanfen lou Collection), book 2, juan 4, pp. 7b-8a in Sibu congkan chubian 四部叢刊初編 (Collection of the Four Categories, First Series), Zhang Yuanji 張元濟 (1867-1959), comp. (Shanghai, 1919), vols. 1557-1568.




09. July 2015 by Steven D. Owyoung
Categories: Literature, Literature, Translation |

A Place for Tea

Hulu jushi fanyi







Li Rihua of the Ming dynasty
A Place for Tea

A clean room – with just a broad couch, a ready table, burning incense, a cup of tea – empty of unnecessary things.  While sitting in meditation, a pure ethereal force gathers naturally within me.  As this chaste and numinous power grows, the foul and turbid effluvium of the world also shifts within and is steadily purged.


明 李日華




Li Rihua 李日華 (1565-1635), Liuyan zhai sanbi 六研齋三筆 (Copious Notes from the Studio of Six Pursuits), juan 4, pp. 5b-6a, especially 6a in “Zajia lei 雜家類 (Miscellaneous Treatises),” “Zibu 子部 (Masters and Philosophers),” Qinding Siku quanshu 欽定四庫全書 (Complete Collection of the Four Libraries by Imperial Commission), compiled by Ji Yun 紀昀 (1724–1805) et al. (Beijing: Forbidden City, 1798).




06. July 2015 by Steven D. Owyoung
Categories: Literature, Translation |

Song of Tasting Tea at West Mountain Temple








Liu Yuxi of the Tang dynasty
Song of Tasting Tea at West Mountain Temple

Beyond the temple eaves, the mountain monks have many tea plants.
Spring arrives and the glow of the bamboo draws out new buds.
Like welcoming a guest, rise and smooth the robes to
Pick from all the lush growth the eagle beaks.
In a instant, the firing fills the room with fragrance.
For an elegant service, ply water from Jinsha,
Listen for the sound of rain and pines from the brazier.
White clouds fill the bowl, billowing here now there.
Even from afar, one whiff dispels the drunken night,
Cares are banished clean to the bone.
From sunny cliffs to shady ridges, each has a special quality,
But those cannot compare to this, moss-grown beneath the bamboo.
Yandi sampled flora but knew not this brew;
Tongjun was prescient yet knew not this flavor.
New buds are curled, not even half ever open.
From picking to brewing takes but a moment or so.
The aroma is like the scent of dew-soaked magnolia;
Next to the color of waves, the jade herb is peerless.
The monks say that the beautiful flavor is crucial to reclusion.
Pick, pick the rich, mellow leaves for the honored guest:
Don’t send it home.
Forget the brick well and bronze brazier,
For how can the spring leaves of even Mengshan and Guzhu
Ever survive the rigors of travel?
He who desires to know the pure, refreshing flavor of tea
Must be a man of sleeping clouds and creeping stones.


唐 劉禹錫





Liu Yuxi 劉禹錫 (772-842), “Xishan lanre shicha ge 西山蘭若試茶歌 (Song of Tasting Tea at West Mountain Temple, ca. 805) in Cao Yin 曹寅 (1658-1712 A.D.) and Peng Dingqiu 彭定求 (1645-1719 A.D.) et al., comps, Qüan Tangshi 全唐詩 (Complete Poetry of the Tang Dynasty, 1705), juan 356, no. 15.



First noted by Liu Yuxi circa 805, West Mountain Temple Tea was yet another example of loose leaf produced by a Buddhist monastery during the Tang dynasty. Half a century before, the poet Li Bo famously named Immortal Palm Tea, a loose leaf produced around 752 at the Jade Spring Temple in Jingzhou, modern Danyang, Hubei. The tea at West Mountain Temple was further noteworthy because it was grown amidst bamboo. Moreover, it was the special practice of the monks to serve guests tea that was not only from the monastery’s own garden but also picked, fired, and brewed especially for the occasion.

Liu Yuxi was a high official and a government reformist during the late Tang dynasty. At court, the reformists were opposed by supporters of the crown prince and by palace eunuchs. When the emperor died and the heir apparent ascended the throne in 805, the reformists were demoted and banished to provincial posts. As one of eight noted reformists, Liu Yuxi was sent into exile to become military adjutant at Langzhou, modern Changde, Hunan, where he spent ten years before being recalled to the capital in 815.

While in Langzhou, Liu Yuxi spent time at West Mountain Temple, a Buddhst monastery. The monks greeted visitors with a very special loose leaf tea. Planted in gardens behind the temple, tea was grown among moss and bamboo. When guests arrived, tea was picked from the bushes and immediately brought to the hall to be fired and brewed with Jinsha Spring water right in front of the visitors. The brew was so fresh that Liu Yuxi opined that not even Yandi the Fire Emperor (Shennong the Divine Cultivator) nor the Yellow Emperor’s physician Tongjun had ever tasted such a wonderful tea. He discouraged guests from sending the tea home, for it would suffer from the journey. Indeed, not even the rare teas of Mount Meng in Sichuan and of Huzhou in Zhejiang might survive the trip. Moreover, water and brewing method would not be the same as at the monastery. Liu Yuxi concluded that only a recluse residing at West Mountain Temple could know the true taste of tea.





03. July 2015 by Steven D. Owyoung
Categories: Literature, Literature, Translation |

Miscellaneous Poem

Hulu jushi fanyi







Wang Wei of the Liu Song dynasty
Miscellaneous Poems, number one of two

Alone and desolate, I close the high chambers,
Silent and empty, the grand halls.
Waiting for my lord who will not return,
I catch myself and go at once to tea.


雜詩二首 其一









Wang Wei 王微 (415-453), “Zashi 雜詩 (Miscellaneous Poem),” Chajing 茶經 (Book of Tea, 780 A.D.), Lu Yü 陸羽 (trad. 733-804 A.D.), comp. (Baichuan xüehai 百川學海, ed., 1273 A.D.), juan 3, part 7, p. 7b.



Gu Kaizhi 顧愷之 (ca. 345-406), attributed
Nüshi zhentu 女史箴圖 (The Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies), detail
Handscroll: ink and colors on silk
The British Museum




25. June 2015 by Steven D. Owyoung
Categories: Literature, Translation |

New Imperial Tribute Tea from Huzhou

Hulu jushi fanyi







Zhang Wengui of the Tang
New Imperial Tribute Tea from Huzhou, ca. 841

On a spring outing, returning tipsy by phoenix carriage,
Her coiffed peony blossoms teasing bobbled ornaments.
Fording the inlet, the faerie belle peeps through the screen
To announce the arrival of russet buds from Wuxing.


Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 8.44.02 AM唐 張文規









Zhang Wengui (active 830–853), “Huzhou gongbei xincha 湖州貢焙新茶 (New Imperial Tribute Tea from Huzhou, ca. 841) in Cao Yin 曹寅 (1658-1712 A.D.) and Peng Dingqiu 彭定求 (1645-1719 A.D.) et al., comps, Qüan Tangshi 全唐詩 (Complete Poetry of the Tang Dynasty, 1705), ch. 366, no. 11.



Zhou Fang (ca. 730-800)
Court Ladies Wearing Flowered Headdresses, 8th century
Handscroll: ink and color on silk
Liaoning Provincial Museum


16. May 2015 by Steven D. Owyoung
Categories: Literature, Translation |

The Ten Virtues of Tea

Hulu jushi fanyi






Liu Zhenliang of the Tang dynasty
The Ten Virtues of Tea

Take tea to dispel melancholy, banish sleep, increase vitality, expel disease, initiate decorum and humanity, express respect, cultivate sophistication, nurture the body, harmonize with the Dao, and regulate desire.

唐 劉貞亮


Source unknown

Liu Zhenliang 劉貞亮 (a.k.a. Liu Zhende 劉貞德 and Jü Wenzhen 俱文珍, active 787-813), imperial eunuch and respected supervisory commander of the Xüanwu Army 宣武監軍 at Kaifeng; rewarded by the emperor with the posthumous title Commander Unequalled in Honor 開府儀同三司.


22. March 2015 by Steven D. Owyoung
Categories: Literature, Translation |

Stories About Lu Yü

Hulu jushi fanyi






Feng Yan (active ca. 755-794 A.D.)
Record of Things Heard and Seen
Chapter 6
“Drinking Tea”

In the Discourse on Tea, Lu Hongjian of Chu explained the merits and methods of brewing and toasting of tea, devising twenty-four tea implements and using an elegant case in which to store them. Near and far, everyone imitated him, and every proper household kept a case of tea implements. Because of his teachings and embellishments, Lu Hongjian, as well as Zhang Boxiong, created a great movement in the art of tea. Princes and nobles and courtiers without exception all drank tea. Li Jiqing, the Censor in Chief, was sent to inspect the Jiangnan region and arrived at the district offices of Huai County. He was told that Zhang Boxiong excelled at tea, whereupon Lord Li summoned Zhang to attend him. Boxiong was dressed in a yellow, sleeveless gown and a black, silk cap, carrying in his own hands his tea utensils. He spoke with authority on the names of tea, showing discernment and giving instruction, expounding on the changes in methods. When the tea was brewed, Li sipped only two cups. Arriving in the Jiangnan region, Li was told that Lu Hongjian was skilled at tea, whereupon Lord Li summoned Hongjian to attend him. Hongjian wore rustic robes and entered accompanying his tea implements. After sitting, he earnestly gave instruction just as Boxiong had done. But in his heart, Li despised him. When the tea was over, Li ordered a servant to take thirty coins to pay “Doctor Tea Cook.” Having traveled widely throughout the south, Hongjian was intimately familiar with fame and celebrity, but this was a shameful incident to which he reacted by writing the Discourse on the Ruination of Tea.



Yan Zhenqing (709-785 A.D.)
“Inscription on the Stele along the Spirit Path of the Honorable Master Li, Grand Master of the Palace with Gold Seal and Purple Ribbon, Acting Grand Mentor of the Heir Apparent, Concurrent Chamberlain for the Imperial Clan, Chief Minister, Minister of Works, Supreme Pillar of State, and Dynasty-founding Duke of Longxi County,” excerpt
Complete Literary Works of the Tang Dynasty
Chapter 342

His Eminence Li Qiwu was demoted to Prefect of Jingling Prefecture. At the time, Lu Yü Hongjian accompanied the Master on a tour of inspection of the region. Lu Yü stated that Li Qiwu stepped from his carriage and summoned his officers, saying to them: ‘Among officials, there are those who do not cultivate the sacred rites; among Buddhists and Daoists, there are those who are incompetent at monastic discipline; and among the common people, there are those who are reckless and impulsive. Before my taking office, none were held responsible. But from now onward, offenders will be relentlessly pursued.’ Within a number of years, the state of the prefecture completely changed, and Jingling flourished and prospered as in the golden age of the ancient sage emperor Fuxi.



Li Zhao (flourished circa 818-821 C.E.)
Supplement to the Dynastic History of the Tang, 827 A.D.
Chapter 3

In the Jiangnan region, there was a station master who did things his own way. When the governing prefect arrived on an official tour of inspection, the station master simply said, “The station is all in order. Please make your review.” Thereupon, the prefect proceeded. He first saw a room with the sign “Wine Storage” where various drafts were brewed. On the outside of the room was painted the image of a deity. The prefect asked, “What is this?” To which the station master answered, “That is Du Kang, the Sage of Wine.” The prefect then said, “Everywhere this is so.” At another room, the sign read “Tea Storage,” where tea was stored, and again there was an image of a deity. “What is that?” “That is Lu Hongjian, the Sage of Tea.” The prefect thought it was excellent and approved. At another room, the sign read “Pickle Storage,” where pickles were prepared. Again, there was a deity. “What is this?” The official said, “Cai Bojie.” The prefect laughed out loud, saying: “No need to display this!”



Zhou Yüan (active ca. 773-816 A.D.)
“Composing Three Expressions of Being Moved after Visiting West Pagoda as Metropolitan Governor of Jingling”
Complete Literary Works of the Tang Dynasty
Chapter 620

The writings of the ancients included banners and funerary palls, songs of the meritorious, the heterodoxy and apocrypha, and works cherishing the past: flags of praise were posthumously bestowed; songs of the worthy were genuine expressions of form; the unorthodox were simply eccentric and unconventional; reverence for the bygone revealed true human feeling. In contrast, casting inscriptions in bronze and carving them in stone aggrieve the spirits. These are not respectful but rather quite maudlin. And what of my writings, do they revere the past? Objectively speaking, what are they to be taken as?

I, Zhou Yüan, who having written “His Honor Ma Zong of Fufen and his Military Commission over the One Hundred Ethnic Minorities,” formerly worked with the Honorable Li Fu of Longxi, Governor of Nanhai. Li Fu was ordered to move to Huatai. When Ma joined me on Li’s staff, it was in Lingnan at Rongzhou and Guangzhou for about seven meteoric years. Now, Ma Zong’s meritorious contributions fill the world, his literary compositions fly forth from his brush, and as Military Commissioner of Nanhai, he is mother and father to its people. By comparison, I, Zhou Yüan, as a mere provincial governor, just look frail and weak. But, we two are enveloped with one another like “twin carp,” each of us harboring deep regard for the regions of Chu and Yüe. Li Fu, however, lived but a short life and died young. This indeed is the first expression of being so moved and stirred!

Li Fu’s father was the late Li Qiwu, who was a man of great virtue and Governor of Jingling. Because he was born during his father’s days as governor, Li Fu was given the name Fu. Alas! I, Zhou Yüan, who carelessly and disgracefully administers Li Qiwu’s province, was on Li Fu’s staff, and I now govern his father’s prefectural realm. Alack! Li Qiwu! In the official residence, the songs and bells are now extinguished, and Li Qiwu has been buried these many years – now only tears and lamentations. This is indeed the second expression of being so moved and stirred.

For many unbroken years, Lu Yü and I were aids together in Li Fu’s office. Lu Yü was truly my brother! In his Autobiography, Lu wrote he was from Jingling. At the time, he said, “Jingling is beautiful. There is no place better than my hometown.” Now, I administer his town of Jingling. Remembering his words, Lu Yü truly did not exaggerate. Ma Zong also knew Lu Yü. Speaking on his behalf, Ma addressed Lu Yü’s background. Lacking records in the ancestral shrine, Lu Yü began life as a foundling, and until he came of age at nineteen, he lived the life of a Buddhist monk, received Buddhist teachings and its Law, and esteemed the Buddha. A saint, indeed!

Lu Yü, sobriquet Hongjian, a serious scholar of the One Hundred Schools and a companion to half the dignitaries and senior officials under Heaven. He was, moreover, a straightforward and honest critic, a practitioner of witty repartee – a lofty and sublime recluse whose literary works and integrity are incomparable. Ah!

In the west of my prefectural seat, there is Fufu, a place that is round like a mountain top and in the middle of which is a monastery and a pagoda. The bamboo there – as big around as an arm – is a dark green thicket, indeed a living portrait of Hongjian’s teacher. My, such sadness! Resembling a mountain peak, the bamboo of Chu surrounds the pagoda. The abbot whose remains are buried within the pagoda is the same monk who raised and nurtured Lu Yü. The cane in front of the pagoda is the same bamboo once planted and cultivated by Lu Yü.

I look upon the pagoda, the earthly memorial to the elder monk. The bamboo grows old and weathered, and Lu Yü is long gone. As a governor of Chu, I come to Fufu and its Buddhist cloister. It is daylight, and there is no incense burning for Lu Yü. All is abandoned, scattered and lost. My robes tremble in the Chu wind. This is indeed the third expression of being so moved and stirred.

Written in verse, seven characters per line. If Li Fu could read the Three Expressions of Being Moved, how could he hold back his tears and not be sad? Delivered below the pagoda, this composition is Zhou Yüan’s crowning achievement.



願與百越節度使扶風馬公,曩時俱為南海連率隴西李公復從事 。公詔移滑台,扶風公洎予又為幕下賓,從容兩地,七改星火。今扶風公勛庸滿世,文翰飛走,續鎮南海,(11)作民父母﹔而願才貌單薄,亦為刺史。繇是二客雙鯉 ,殷勤於楚越。隴西短齡閱川而物故,予感一也。


羽,字鴻漸,百氏之典學鋪在手掌,天下賢士大夫半與之游。加以方口諤諤,坐能諧謔,世無奈何,文行如軻,所不至者,貴位而已矣。噫!我州之左,有覆釜之地,圓似頂狀,中立塔廟, 篁大如臂,碧籠遺影,蓋鴻漸之本師像也。悲歟!似頂之地,楚篁繞塔。塔中之僧,羽事之僧﹔塔前之竹,羽種之竹。視夫僧影泥破,竹枝筠老而羽亦終。予作楚牧,因來頂中道場,白日無羽香火,遐嘆零落,衣搖楚風,其感三也。是為三感說七言詩以語陳事。



Li Fang (925-996 A.D.)
Extensive Records of the Taiping Era, 978 A.D.
Chapter 399
“Lu Hongjian”

In the spring of 814, Zhang Youxin, who had just become famous, arranged to gather with other National University Students of Grace at the Jianfu Temple. Youxin and Li Deyü arrived first and went to rest in the quarters of the monk Xüanjian along the west corridor of the monastery. Just then a monk from Chu arrived and set down a bag to rest. The bag contained several books. Youxin took out a volume and read through it. The writing was all notes and closely detailed. At the end were inscribed the words A Record of Water for Brewing (the word “record” was originally the word “places” according to the emendation of a Ming dynasty copy). In the time of Emperor Taizong [sic], Li Jiqing was governor of Huzhou. When he arrived at Weiyang, he met the recluse Hongjian. Li Jiqing had heard of Lu Yü and was pleased with the chance travel with him. When they arrived at the post station along the Yangzi, it was about dinner time. Li Jiqing said, “Master Lu excels at the art of tea. All under Heaven know this. The water at Nanling along the Yangzi is also exceptional. Today the chance meeting of these two marvelous things is one in a thousand. Why neglect this opportunity?” He ordered a trustworthy and diligent military officer to take a jar and a boat to the deepest part of the Nanling to fetch water. While waiting, Lu Yü cleaned his utensils. Very soon after, the water arrived. Lu Yü used a ladle to scoop out some, saying, “This is indeed river water, but it is not drawn from Nanling. It seems to be water taken from along the shore.” The officer replied, “I rowed the boat and entered the deepest part of the water. This was witnessed by several hundred people. How dare I deceive you?” Lu Yü said nothing, and then he poured from the jar half the water and quickly stopped. Again, he used a ladle to scoop out some and said, “Now this is water from Nanling.” Suddenly startled, the officer hastily knelt and said, “As I was holding the jar level from the Nanling to the riverbank, the boat swayed and the water spilled. Fearing the loss, I added water from the shore. The recluse’s discernment is divine insight, indeed! Who dares conceal or deceive him! Li Jiqing was amazed and filled with admiration. The several tens of bystanders were all shocked and alarmed. Since Lu Yü’s perception was so keen, Li then asked him if he would judge the merits and demerits of water from the places he experienced. Lu said, “The water of Chu is superior. The water of Jin is the most inferior.” Li Jiqing then arranged a sequence of water from places all ranked according to Lu Yü. (This was published as the Book of Water)


元和九年春,張又新始成名,與同恩生期於薦福寺。又新與李德裕先至,憩西廊僧玄鑒室。會才有楚僧至,置囊而息,囊有數編書。又新偶抽一通覽焉,文細密,皆雜記,卷末又題雲《煮水紀》(“記”原作“處”,據明抄本改)。太宗朝,李季卿刺湖州,至維揚,遇陸處士鴻漸。李素熟陸名,有傾蓋之歡,因赴郡。抵揚子驛中,將食,李曰:“ 陸 君善茶,蓋天下聞,揚子江南零水,又殊絕。今者二妙千載一遇,何曠之乎!”命軍士信謹者,挈瓶操舟,深詣南零取水,陸潔器以俟。俄水至,陸以杓揚水曰:“江則江矣,非南零者,似臨岸者。”使曰:“某棹舟深入,見者累百人,敢绐乎?”陸不言,既而傾諸盆,至半,陸遽止。又以杓揚之曰:“自此南零者矣。”使蹶然大駭,馳下曰:某自南零赍齊至岸,舟蕩半,懼其尠,挹岸水以增之。處士之鑒,神鑒也,其敢隱欺乎!”李大驚賞,從者數十輩,皆大驚愕。李因問陸,既如此,所經歷之處,水之優劣可判矣。陸曰:“楚水第一,晉水最下。”李因命口佔而次第之。(出《水經》


09. January 2015 by Steven D. Owyoung
Categories: Literature, Literature, Translation |

The Abolition of Caked Tea by Imperial Decree

Hulu jushi fanyi







The Veritable Records of Emperor Taizu of the Great Ming Dynasty

Sixteenth day, ninth lunar month, twenty-fourth year [1391] of the Hongwu reign period

By imperial decree: It is ordered that the tea households of Jianning officially cease and desist picking and offering caked tea as annual tribute. Of all the empire’s producers with fixed quotas for the yearly tribute, the tea of Jianning is supreme. The large and small dragon rounds required by and presented to the court are ground and kneaded into pulp and pressed into silver molds, a method that grossly abuses the labor and depletes the strength of the people. Halt the production of dragon rounds and only pick tea buds to present to the palace. Tribute will henceforth consist of four kinds, namely: Seeking Springtime; Gathering Springtime; Arriving Spring; and Russet Shoots. The five hundred tea households are released and exempt from corvée labor to specialize in picking and planting tea. Subsequent administrators feared the next phase of reforms. Thus, officials were sent to manage the situation; the tea householders dreaded their coercion. Everywhere bribes were accepted. Hearing of this, the emperor thus issues this command.




詔建寧歲貢上供茶 聽茶戶採進 有司勿與 天下產茶去處歲貢皆有定額 而建寧茶品為上 其所進者必碾而揉之 壓以銀板 大小龍團 上以重勞民力 罷造龍團 惟採茶芽以進其品有四 曰探春 屯春 次春 紫筍 置茶戶五百 免其徭役 俾專事採植 既而有司恐其後時 常遣人督之 茶戶畏其逼迫 往往納賂 上聞之 故有是命






DaMing Taizu gao huangdi shilu 大明太祖高皇帝實錄 (The Veritable Records of Emperor Taizu of the Great Ming Dynasty) 卷之二百十二 (Chapter 212).


Portrait of Emperor Ming Taizu
Ming dynasty
Album leaf: ink, color, and gold on silk
National Palace Museum, Taibei 



02. December 2014 by Steven D. Owyoung
Categories: History, Literature, Translation |

Moon Festival

Hulu jushi fanyi







Su Shi of the Song dynasty
Based on the Song of Water Tunes
Moon Festival, 1076
Happily drinking through the night till morning: Truly drunk, wrote this verse, begging the pardon of younger brother, Ziyou.

When will the bright moon appear?
I raise my wine to query the dark sky,
Wondering what year upon palatial Heaven this night falls.
I wish to return there, immortal on the wind,
But I fear I could not bear the cold heights beneath the jade eaves of its jeweled halls.
Rising to dance in joy with my fine moon-shadow,
There is nothing comparable in all the world.
Moonlight eddies about cinnabar pavilions,
Slips beneath latticed doors,
Shining upon the sleepless.
I should have no regrets,
But as we are apart so long, why then is the moon so round?
We all have joy and sorrow, partings and reunions:
The moon waxes and wanes in shadow and light.
Since ancient times, nothing has ever been perfect.
Long may we live,
Though miles apart, and together enjoy the beauty of the moon!


宋 蘇軾
水調歌頭 丙辰中秋,歡飲達旦,大醉。作此篇,兼懷子由




08. September 2014 by Steven D. Owyoung
Categories: Literature, Translation |

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