Saturday, March 12, 2011

Section 19. On Tea Utensils

"Sangzhu the Sage (a pseudonym for Lu Yu) used a silver cauldron for making tea. Finding that too luxurious, he later used a ceramic cauldron. Since this however was not durable, he finally reverted to using a silver cauldron."

Those who do not have a copy of Korean Tea Classics do please follow along and participate by referencing a different English translation available here from The Leaf.

This tea classic will be covered one section a week which will go on for 24 weeks. Feel free to jump in with your commentary at anytime.



Anonymous said...


The remark by Cho Ui is curious for its mistaken interpretation of the Chajing 茶經 by the Tang tea master Lu Yü 陸羽 (traditional dates, 733-804 A.D.). According to the section Qi 器 (Utensils), Chajing 茶經 (Book of Tea, 780 A.D.), ch. 2, part 4 published in the woodblock print edition Baiquan xüehai 百川學海 of 1273 A.D., Lu Yü wrote the following about cauldrons for brewing tea:

洪州以瓷爲之, 萊州以石爲之.
瓷與石皆雅器也, 性非堅實, 難可持久.
用銀爲之至潔, 但涉於侈麗.
雅則雅矣, 潔亦潔矣,

“The cauldron: use cast iron to make it…The cauldrons of Hongzhou are made of pottery; those of Laizhou are of stone. Pottery and stone cauldrons are elegant vessels, but by the nature of their materials, they are not durable and difficult to maintain. Use a cauldron of silver for purity and cleanliness, but silver is luxuriously extravagant. Though elegance begets elegance and purity indeed begets purity, for a vessel of hard and constant use, favor a cauldron of iron.”

Given Lu Yü’s regard for propriety, he would have used a silver cauldron when serving nobility, but otherwise he brewed his daily tea with a cauldron of polished iron.


Matt said...


Thanks for this background. It seems like Lu Yu's recommendation on the most appropriate type of cauldron was only used in this section of Cha Sin Jeon to speak of the importance silver cauldrons because the remainder of this passage contradicts Lu Yu.

What we find from the passage you provided is that Lu Yu's statement on the type of cauldron speaks once again to practicality. Where the passage in Cha Sin Jeon speaks more to the energetics of tea. Then again, they are talking about different ways of making different types of tea.

Wonderful background Steve, much appreciated!

When can we expect the release of the book?


Matt said...


Notes on Section 19:

This passage speaks to the aesthetic, practicality, and energetics of each type of pot.

Although very good at making tea, a silver kettle carries with it a certain kind of pretentiousness. Therefore this pot is best suited for serving very important people or during special occasions and ceremonies. It is very expensive but durable. Silver is quite light and is said to be the purist of all. It is the pure manifestation of the Metal element.

A ceramic kettle is also very good at making tea but is much more humble. It is best suited for everyday use. However, as one found out, it is is not durable and is therefore prone to breakage. See here:

Ceramic is said to be harmonious and nurturing.

Traditional pewter in Asia is composed of a much higher concentration of tin (97.5) than that of European pewter (94%). See here:

Therefore it is basically tin. Tin is not the best at making tea but is very affordable and is somewhat durable. Tin is very light and therefore still harmonizes nicely to the energetics of the tea made at the time, green tea (which is a light tea).

"bronze and iron should be avoided" this is because the energetics of these metals are heavy and suppress the light nature of green tea.


Julien ÉLIE said...

"bronze and iron should be avoided" this is because the energetics of these metals are heavy and suppress the light nature of green tea.

Thanks, Matt and Steve, for your very interesting comments on the subject.
Bronze and iron (tetsubin) are indeed too heavy for green teas, as well as lightly oxidized wulong for instance. It is exactly like the mineralization of water, as you are currently discussing it in your blog: high mineralization is too heavy for these teas.

Bronze and iron release too many minerals in water.