Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Hishaku Is No Pyo Choo Bak

The rattling lid of the brazier, barely containing the boiling water and steam that occasionally sprays out, signals a hand to reach for the pyo choo bak. It's time to make tea.

The hand that reaches for the pyo choo bak makes such beautiful circular motions, once grasped, the pyo choo bak continues to be beautifully wafted through the air. Landing in boiling water before scooping some out, it moves full of water, guided in dance before trickling its boiling contents upon unsuspecting tea leaves, or, more often then not, into the echoing hallows of the cooling bowl.

When a Korean tea master holds the pyo choo bak in their hands, they preform the dance of all dances. The motions with the pyo choo bak are smooth, soft, circular, and free. These motions imitate the motions of life, of earth, of nature. These motions could surely be those of the annual vine that this gourd once grew from, before being dried, before a piece was sliced from its side, before being hollowed, before being used today.

These movements are a far cry from the motions of the Japanese tea ceremony, where the motions of the bamboo laddle, the hishaku, cut through the air. Made by bamboo, the hishaku moves through the air in sharp, strait, contrived motions. Just as the growth of bamboo is straight and so deliberate, so are the movements with the hishaku.

The hishaku slices through the air beautifully like the blade of a samurai in battle. The samurai that once popularized and lead to the spread of the tea ceremony had forever influenced and instilled their movements upon it. So too did the litiri of Korea instill their movements upon the Korean tea ceremony. Unlike the sharp movements of a blade, the curved free movements of a pen, calligraphy brush, or watercolour brush are the movements of the litiri. The circular free motion of a hand that writes, the strokes of black ink on rice paper, or the mellow blobs of a watercolour brush, have influenced the movements of the Korean tea ceremony. Unconsciously, free from thought, after drawing water for tea, these are the movements of the pyo choo bak as one rests it upon a white hemp cloth right now.



toki said...

I have been searching for one for a few months now. Unfortunately, here in the States, there are no good shape like this.... I am planning on growing my own : )
Will see if God's smile upon me next year.

I have a smaller one for filler, those with small bamboo handle and a linen filter. But sometimes it will turn the tea yellowish?

Very Jealous to see your toy! And Thanks for sharing again. Cheers . Toki

Matt said...


I never thought about growing pyo choo bak for making a ladle. There's something that is kind of funny about a tea master scouring his gardens for a perfect looking squash!

And, yeah, the water does get a little discoloured and off-flavoured when you first use the pyo choo bak, but it goes away with use.

Have fun in the garden!