Saturday, October 16, 2010

Korean Tea Classics Book Club- Cha Bu- Rhapsody To Tea by Hanjae Yi Mok 8. Epilogue

"I cherish you, frequent you, drink you, you keep me company, on mornings when flowers bloom, on moonlit evenings, I am happy, no complaints."

from Cha-Bu Rhapsody To Tea by Hanjae Yi Mok translated in Korean 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.



Adam Yusko said...

Not sure what I can say about this, it surely has wonderful imagery, designed to paint tea in a perfect light. I feel as though this is almost there for him to finish this essay/ book by saying "See how happy tea has made me? It can make you this happy also."

Matt said...


This last section is is very much a concluding remark- a finishing of his essay as you have mentioned.

It ties closely to the introduction in section 1- the Preface. It is in the preface where Hanjae Yi Mok first says, "See how happy tea has made me? It can make you this happy also." Now he reiterates this fact after presenting the evidence in the body of Cha-Bu. As you say this is general, essay stuff.

Of course Hanjae Yi Mok is more cleaver than just reciting the same theme throughout the book. The Epilogue also suggests insight into personal/ political struggles going on with Hanjae Yi Mok and also offers more advice on deeper ways to appreciate tea in spite of this.


Rebekah said...

Thrilling and humbling. "Born into this world, when wind and waves are fierce"...."When the spirit moves the heart, it enters the Wondrous." The author's record of his troubles offers something to everyone born into this world.

Differently from the Persian metaphor of wine for passionate/spiritual love, These lines seem a metaphor, but also not metaphor, just tea.

Matt said...


"The author's record of his troubles offers something to everyone born into this world."

The way Hanjae Yi Mok opens up here in the end really gives the readers a feeling of how important tea is to him. It also, as you said, offers something to everyone, struggling in their own way in this world.

Thanks Rebekah, wonderfully put.


Matt said...


Notes on section 8:

This last section accomplishes three things.

Firstly, it concludes the essay, tying it to the argument presented in the preface that tea drinking can bring happiness to those who drink it. See commentary in the comments above.

Secondly, it reveals personal insight into the life and times of Hanjae Yi Mok. The feeling of this last section along with Hanjae Yi Mok's personal disclosers almost seems to foreshadow his early death.

"Born into this world when winds and waves are fierce, hoping to preserve my health, what could save me if I abandon you". This gives us an idea that Hanjae Yi Mok is aware that his time in the world is an uneasy one, a time of turbulence, violence, and change. He seems to embrace tea almost as a last hope, a comfort in this hard time. For Hanjae Yi Mok tea has more of a mental, social, and spiritual benefit.

Thirdly, he continues to give readers advice on how to appreciate tea on a deeper level. The quote selected shows Hanjae Yi Mok's love for tea. Of particular importance is the fact that Hanjae Yi Mok loves tea and never complains about it. Hanjae Yi Mok doesn't state how one tea from a certain area is better than another, or how a certain type of tea is better than another, he simple enjoys all tea to the fullest with all his heart, with "no complaints". This is a lesson that tea drinkers should not downplay.

Near the end he speaks of Wisdom and Benevolence. He implies that we should approach tea and other aspects of life with Wisdom- striving above the material, superficial liquor of tea and instead taking in its deep, profound nature. He implies that we should approach tea and life with Benevolence- admiring with astute observation the "fruits" of benefits that tea can bring to our lives. It is important to note the holy nature of mountains to Koreans. They are almost god like and worshiped as such. So "the fruit of the mountain" is the insight gained from drinking tea, a blessing like that bestowed by a God.

Finally, it is worth noting once more Hanjae Yi Mok's reference to the Dao. "morning when flowers bloom/ moonlit night"; "Life is the origin of death, death is the source of life". Brilliant writing style.


Gingko said...

My books arrived today. They are so beautiful! Thank you for introducing these nice books!

Anonymous said...


When Yi Mok spoke of the need to “keep control of your inward heart,” he referred to the ancient wisdom of Xi Kang 嵇康 (224-263 A.D.) and the Yang-sheng lun 養生論, Theory of Nurturing Life. Yi Mok emulated Xi Kang in his concern for health and the life affirming properties of tea, and like Xi Kang he was persecuted to death by unrelenting enemies.

Xi Kang was one of the famous Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove. He was renowned for his elegant writing, musical composition, and mastery of the lute. As a philosopher, he dismissed the illusory life of pleasure to concentrate on an inner life of meditation, simple, healthful living, and longevity. He had no regard for the social graces that impeded his personal enlightenment and express his feeling of frustrations in a letter:

"Being at the beck and call of the court herald when all he wanted was to lie late in bed

Being restricted in movement when he wished to walk about freely, sing, and carry his lute

Being forced to kneel, bowing to superiors, immobilized while infested with lice and unable to scratch

Being responsible for business and paper work and writing letters but not wanting to do any of it

Being dishonest, forced to dissemble before societal expectations, and being blamed for failing anyway

Being among the conspiring crowd: noisy, dirty, and contaminating

Being involved in worldly affairs and worrying about a myriad cares

Being critical of great historical figures, especially the paragons of Confucianism

Being vocal in the face of evil"
(trans. Cyril Birch, 1965)

It was a facetious and yet serious attack on convention. His enemies discovered the letter, charged him with sedition, and condemned him to death. Legend has it that he calmly played his lute just before his execution.

Yi Mok felt across the intervening centuries a kinship to Xi Kang, a moral and righteous man living in immoral and corrupt times.


Matt said...


Thanks for elaborating on Xi Kang and his connection to Hanjae Yi Mok. Your comments really help bring this section together.


Feel free to jump into the conversation anytime. Looking forward to hearing what you think of these texts.


Anonymous said...

Tea is personified: “you keep me company”. A special relation, connection, between the tea drinker and his tea is hereby made. Tea follows us, as a companion, as a friend, as a woman to cherish (for men). “The tea of my heart.”

“I am happy, no complaints.”
Yes, as you highlight it in your comment, Matt, it is one of the most interesting points. “Pleasure arises.” And “it is needless to seek another [pleasure]”.
In a bowl of tea, whatever the tea is, there is always pleasure. Pleasure to brew it of course, and to try to make the best of the leaves and water you have. “No complaints.”
Happiness lies in what we already have.

Matt said...

Julien ÉLIE,

"Happiness lies in what we already have."



Ho Go said...


Xi Kang sounded like an honest man. Truth is a threat to the very idea of who we are. So be it. Or, so BE it.:)