Sunday, September 11, 2011

Korean Tea Classics Book Club- Dong Cha Song- Hymn In Praise of Korean Tea- 13

"Wisdom dwells all round, every barrier falls.
Its divine roots are entrusted to Spirit Mountain."

Feel free to join the online book club at anytime by simply purchasing Korean Tea Classics. Dong Cha Song is 17 stanzas in length, we will go through each stanza week by week. Jump in and join the discussion as you please.



Anonymous said...


Regarding Sprit Mountain, I offer the following.

Tu Yü was a poet of the early fourth century A.D. and known for his elegant writing. He wrote the oldest known Chinese rhapsody devoted to tea, the Ode to Tea. In the Ode, Tu Yü took tea from the garden to the bowl and beyond, an elaborate and complex journey rich in historical, literary, and religious allusion. Using spare, often cryptic images, Tu Yü introduced the earliest statements about tea as ritual, its proper equipage, and described the appearance of brewed tea as well as its aesthetic appeal. He had this to say regarding Spirit Mountain:

“On the peaks of Mount Ling,
a wondrous thing is gathered:
It is tea.
Every valley and hill is luxuriously covered
with this wealth of the Earth,
Blessed with the sweet spirit of Heaven.”

Mount Ling was the archetypal axis mundi, a pillar rising from Earth, bearing tea on its slopes to Heaven where the herbal offering was consecrated. Tea was transcendent, sanctified by the primal deities of the Universe – Heaven and Earth - and became a tangible connection between the material and spiritual realms. In religious terms, Mount Ling was the holy Pillar of the World and sacred to Taoists and Buddhists. In Buddhism, it is the site of Buddha’s preaching. In Taoism, Mount Ling is the mystic isle of Penglai.

A translation of the entire Ode to Tea may be found at the website:


Matt said...


Regarding Spirit Mountain...

Thought that it was alluding to the worship of Jiri Mountain as the Mountain Spirit, the folk religion of local people before the arrival of Buddhism. Latter Buddhism asimilated its worship into its temples.

See here:

Your added details about Spirit Mountain actually goes somewhat well with this idea. In this case, Cho-Ui is attempting to draw parallels between Spirit Mountain and Jiri Mountain.

The link you supplied at goes to a spam/ web design site. Can you supply us with a current and more detailed link to the translation of Ode to Tea?

Thanks again Steve.


Anonymous said...


Oh, I was just giving the Chinese tea background for a sacred place called Spirit Mountain. The name Mount Ling or Spirit Mountain proliferated in China; there are a number of provinces that claim hills or mountains with the name of Mount Ling in Hopei, Honan, Honan, Shantung, Szechwan, and Kwangtung. In ancient times, these numerous places were worshipped as tutelary gods by nativist cults and later by Taoists who created the perfected ideal known as Spirit Mountain. The ideal of a supreme sacred mountain was similarly created in many cultures and civilizations, including Korea.

Through his study of tea, Cho-Ui undoubtedly learned of the Chinese ideal of Spirit Mountain and its poetic connection to tea, and, as you say, when writing of Korean tea, he equated Mount Ling with the holy mountain Jiri-san.

In the history of tea, physical, political, religious, and cultural boundaries were certainly acknowledged and recognized. True masters like Cho-Ui, however, transcended such limits to embrace a universal vision of tea.

The Ode to Tea was one of the earliest extant poetic expressions of tea. It is surely one of the most profound. In the art of tea, the Tang master Lu Yu considered the Ode among the most important aesthetic and spiritual references to the plant and brew.

Here’s a more specific link to the Chinese poem Ode to Tea:


Matt said...

Steve, is one's new favorite tea web site. :)

Again thanks for clarifying.


Matt said...


Notes on Stanza 13:

This stanza aims to encourage the tea drinker to transcend fragrance, taste, and color (the yin and yang aspects of tea which comprise of the Dao of tea) by first mentioning fragrance, taste, and color then alluding to an aspect of tea enjoyment that surpasses the sensory level.

It mentions fragrance (yin aspect):

"If the nine difficulties are overcome, the four fragrances will develop fully"

See Stanza 12 for detail of the nine difficulties and four fragrances:

It mentions taste (yang aspect):

"Tea of the finest flavor may be presented as one of the nine royal tributes."

Nine is considered a number reserved for royals- tea is regal.

It mentions color (yang aspect):

"Only Blue Wave and Green Fragrance and submitted to the court."

Blue Wave and Green Fragrance are names of famous green teas. There are four allusions to the colour green (or blue-green) in this stanza. It should be noted that this color harmonizes with the energetics of tea- especially green tea.

In the end Cho-ui encourages the reader and tea drinker to transcend fragrance, taste, and color:

"Wisdom dwells all round, every barrier falls."

This line implies breaking through meditation or a koan (through the sensory experience) to a place of wisdom.

"Its divine roots are entrusted to Mountain Spirit."

See above commentary.