Friday, September 17, 2010

Korean Tea Classics Book Club- Cha Bu- Rhapsody To Tea by Hanjae Yi Mok 4. Tea-Forest Landscapes


"What can be seen above?... What can be seen below?... Even experienced hill-climbers find it hard to reach here, spirits seem to be very near."

from Cha-Bu Rhapsody To Tea by Hanjae Yi Mok translated in Korea Tea Classics

Feel free to join the online book club at anytime by simply purchasing Korean Tea Classics. The classics will be covered one section a week which will go on for about a year.

Peace

13 comments:

Bret said...

What can be seen above?.....What can be "heard" below?......spirits must be very near.

Is he trying to imply that this location with it's high elevation, isolation is some how sacred or other worldly? So of course the tea growing there must be treated as if it is the most precious thing imaginable.

Hmmm.......spirits? Goblin Tea! I want some!

Sorry Matt, I know you want us to take this seriously but....it's not always easy.

Matt said...

Bret,

Hahaha... Think you get the quote though.

No, you don't have to take it too serious. Learn a little, laugh a little... no one likes a teacher without a sense of humour. :)

Peace

Matt said...

All,

Here are some notes on section 4:

Hanjae Yi Mok paints a beautiful literary picture of tea in its natural surroundings. He uses romantic natural imagery to paint this picture as he flexes his literary skill and continues to connect tea to nature as he did in the previous section.

As Bret stated (rather jokingly) that the quote refers to tea as being 'up on its own pedestal', scared, otherworldly, and heavenly. Think the quote can also refer to a theme presented in the preface that tea is drank by many people but is not respected as it should be and its essence or true nature is not fully understood.

This section and, more specifically, this quote alludes to tea as something worthy of respect, as being heavenly. The quote also draws on the past reference to the "Three Sovereign Powers" (Heaven, Earth, and Man) where tea is situated between Heaven and Earth acting as vehicle, blessing or sacrifice of humankind (see commentary here: http://mattchasblog.blogspot.com/2010/09/korean-tea-classics-book-club-cha-bu.html )

It uses "experienced hill-climbers" as a metaphor representing experienced tea drinkers who either are blind to tea's deep meaning or who simply can't grasp the depth of knowledge that tea can offer.

The last few lines of this section show the results, an overwhelming happiness, that can be achieved by understanding the essence of tea. Hanjae Yi Mok stated in the first few lines of the preface that he "discovered something of its (tea's) true nature and came to value tea immensely." And in this first paragraph of Cha-Bu he proclaimed that this understanding can lead to true happiness.

Peace

Bret said...

With all the goblins and spirits about it's no wonder the tea is "scared" I would be too.

But more seriously, what was the peoples perception of tea in this time to require such guidance?

Did the average person back in those days not recognise tea as anything other than just something to drink?

I am afraid that not much has changed in reguards to the average persons opinion of tea, most of my friends and family just don't get it.....this crazy fixation with tea. They can go for a drive up in the mountains or where ever and connect with nature and appreciate the perfection in the sheer beauty of the Mother Earth. But they fail to grasp the concept that good tea, in the correct setting can also transport you to that same "head space" and enable you to re-connect "for a time" to that same sense of gratitude and appreciation for what this wonderful planet we call home.

Now, in our daily lives we don't always have time to re-connect with nature but it's nice to know that the opportunity to do so is right at hand and waiting for us.

Matt said...

Bret,

Wonderfully said. There are many different ways to get there, tea is just one of the many.

Peace

Rebekah said...

The description of nature combined with thought is beautiful.
The Chinese offers grounds for guesswork about what ideas and images Yi Mok grouped together on separate lines. In the juxtapositions within these lines, thought and image are striking.

"Seen...above...stars /
Heard...below...rivers oceans...birds singing / Animals flowers herbs of different kinds...

Ho Go said...

Please tell me where 'there' is. :) This type of thinking was usually met with a blow to the head by the Zen Master!!! Can tea be more sacred than corn on the cob? Hmm, The Way Of Corn. Doesn't have such a good ring to it. Forgive me, I can't help myself. Cheers.

Adam Yusko said...

I personally love the imagery in this section. For roughly the first 10 years of my life I grew up in a forested area, half way up a (small) mountian.

"Russet light green, dark green yellow, early late, short, long, issuing from the roots, rising through branches, sending out leaves, offering shade, spitting out shoots of pure gold lush jade-green, forming forests luxuriantly dense sensuously beautiful, wonderful and stately, like clouds rising and mists thickening truly the most glorious sight under Heaven!"

Brings me back to spring, where the woods are incredibly green, and full of life. It is indeed "the most glorious sight under Heaven!"

Matt said...

Rebekah,

Nature and thought juxtaposed... there is a lot of that throughout Cha-Bu. The juxtaposition supports a Daoist view that Hanjae Yi Mok uses throughout Cha-Bu.

Thanks for mentioning that.

Ho Go,

You must be referring to the 'Corn Cob Sect' of Zhi Shin Ho- a prolific influence on Chan Buddhism?

Adam,

The imagery in this section is tantalizing. You really end up being whisked away to the tea-forest as you read the translated words of Hanjae Yi Mok.

Peace

Julien ÉLIE said...

“the mountains are high” -> does it mean that the higher the mountain is, the more energy the plant gets? (to go on with what we spoke about recently: more exposure to “the bright beams of sun and moon“ [section 2])

More generally, why is altitude better for tea? (Isn't there tea cultivated at altitude 0 or so? -- see Gan Kou http://teamasters.blogspot.com/2010/08/gan-kou-oolong.html which has incidentally a salty flavour!)

“the roar of oceans” -> can we really hear from a high mountain? :)

I like the expression “numinous birds”. It is a bound to heaven and spirits. Same for “auspicious herbs”.

“strange flowers” -> amusing adjective here. It is for the metaphor of heaven I believe. People are not accustomed to reaching such a high place. They do not know these flowers and “outlandish animals”. Note “out + land”: we are beyond the earth. We are close to heaven, to stars.

Matt said...

Julien ÉLIE,

Hahaha... This chapter seems too easy to poke fun at. It must be the over-the-top imagery that almost seems cheesy?

The imagery, as you suggest, is heavenly or otherworldly.

If tea or the tea maker comes from this place, how wonderful will the tea in the cup be?

Peace

Julien ÉLIE said...

The imagery, as you suggest, is heavenly or otherworldly.

Rereading this section, I am also delighted by the last sentence. Home sweet home. “I return to the valley, playing my flute.” His body is lightened (one of the merits of tea.)
One could even imagine that the valley is playing Yi Mok's flute!
(Though it might be an effect of the translation; the Chinese text might be clearer.)

I note that the poet does not brew his leaves in the mountains, but returns to the valley. Yet, it could have been an extraordinary experience to drink tea there. Is there a hidden message here? Thou shalt not drink with Gods? :-)

Matt said...

Julien ÉLIE,

In Korea the term "valley" means the area between mountains. Traditionally in Korea, the valleys are a place of recreation. Being cooler than the mountains and the villages, Koreans often hang out there especially as it begins to get hotter in the summer. Also, naturally the water source for the tea flows down the valleys. So it would be a more likely place to brew tea.

Thanks for your thoughts on this.

Peace