Immortal’s Palm Tea: Preface and Poem
Immortal’s Palm Tea: Preface and Poem*
Li Bo (701-762 A.D.) of the Tang dynasty
I have heard of Jade Spring Temple near the clear streams and serried hills of Jingzhou, where all the mountain grottos possess stalactite caves, where the many tributaries of Jade Stream mingle, where the white bats are as big as crows. According to the Book of Immortals, bats were known as celestial mice. After a thousand years, their bodies turned white as snow. When perched, they hung upside down. Drinking the stalactite waters, they were long-lived. Everywhere along the stream, there is tea with stems and leaves like blue-green jade. Only Master Zhen of the Jade Spring Temple used to pick the tea to drink. He was over eighty with a complexion like peaches and plums. This tea is pure in fragrance and mellow in taste, different from other teas. Thus, it restores youth and reverses decay, enhancing longevity. While in Jinling, I saw my nephew Zhongfu who showed me several tens of tea leaves, all curled and layered, shaped like hands, and bearing the name Immortal’s Palm Tea. It is newly produced from the hills of Jade Spring Temple: nothing like it has ever been seen before. Since Zhongfu presented me with this tea and a poem, he wishes me to respond. Therefore, I have written this introduction. Hereafter, the eminent monks and great recluses will all know that Immortal’s Palm Tea began with the Zen master Zhongfu and the Buddhist layman Green Lotus, Li Bo.
Ever have I heard of Mount Jade Spring,
Of its mountain grottos filled with stalactite caves
And immortal bats as big as white crows,
All hanging down above the clear, moonlit stream.
Tea grows among the rocks
And along Jade Spring’s ceaseless flow.
Root and stem exude a rich fragrance;
One whiff nurtures flesh and bone.
Lush and voluminous, the green leaves;
Branch upon branch, row upon row.
The sun dries Immortal’s Palm,
Coddling it like Hong Ya’s shoulder.
The world has never seen the like,
But who will spread its name?
Nephew Ying, the Zen master
Presents this tea and a beautiful poem;
Both are bright mirrors embellishing ugly Wuyan,
But I am shamed by the beauty Xizi.
Even so, this morning I joyfully
Sing this song to the Heavens.
*Previously published on Cha Dao: http://chadao.blogspot.com/ (April 19, 2011) with many thanks to Corax.
Cao Yin 曹寅 (1658-1712) and Peng Dingqiu 彭定求 (1645-1719) et al. comps, Quan Tangshi 全唐詩 (Complete Poetry of the Tang Dynasty, 1705), juan 卷 178.
Liang Kai 梁楷 (ca. 1140-1210)
Li Bo, 13th century
China: Southern Song dynasty
Hanging scroll: ink on paper
Tokyo National Museum