Friday, June 17, 2011

Korean Tea Classics Book Club- Dong Cha Song- Hymn In Praise of Korean Tea- 6

"Although the great Tang dynasty enjoyed every kind of delicate food, the only plant recorded in the Qinyuan Garden was Purple Beauty."

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.



Matt said...


Notes on Stanza 6:

The colour purple in Daoism is assocated with all things spiritual as mentioned in Steve Owyoung's footnotes of the translation but specifically it is often used to indicate a spiritual vehicle liksuch as in the origin of Daoism at Zhongnan Mountain. Cho Ui's implication that tea as "purple" may speak to tea as a vehicle to heaven, or to a more spiritual place.

This stanza appears to draw parallels between food and tea. It could suggest that:

1- tea is as complete and satisfying as "every [any] kind of delicate food". Suggesting that tea is all encompassing, complete, satisfying, and full. This can speak to its enjoyment but also to tea as consumed as a food- vegetable. This stanza implies they only enjoyed one delicate drink- that of tea. This is made obvious with the following line "the only plant they recorded in the Qinyaun Garden was Purple Beauty [metaphor for tea]" Therefore tea is as esteemed as any type of food that can be obtained.

2- tea is as strengthening and nourishing as the highest quality meats. Taste is a yin quality, it also indicates nourishment and recovery. Meat in traditional Asian thought is considered to be the most strengthening and nourishing of any food. "In the Classics of Tea the taste of tea is said to be "satisfying and lingering." Taste is considered a direct indication of qi. Because the description used to describe the taste of tea is a descriptor usually used to describe the taste of meat- "Quanyong" or "satisfying and lingering", it suggests that tea possesses the nourishment (health properties) of even the highest quality meats.


Unknown said...

I found my book once more, and decided to catch up with this Book Club. One thing I have noticd in Dong Cha Song, is that the name Purple has occurred several times in reference to a name of tea. I wonder if Purple actually refers to the color of the leaf, as there are several Purple teas on the market today, which I think can be attributed to two different causes.

One is I believe if the tea undergoes a certain type of production with a high enough level of oxidation the leaves can actually appear purple. The other I am less sure of, but I thought I heard that there is another plant closely related to tea whose leaves are actually purple.

Although Purple I know at least in Europe is commonly associated with Royalty, and if the same was true in China and Korea, I could see purple being added to the name of a tea to indicate some sort of quality or Royal aspect of the tea.

Matt said...


Thanks for jumping back in :)

You bring up a pretty good point...

Wonder if the the name is referring to purple looking dry leaves? In Korea a purplish hue in high quality green tea is a desirable characteristic that is graded relatively high in tea competitions.

Or perhaps purple looking fresh leaves such as the purple puerh variety?

In Asia purple is not really a colour of the royals but instead is a spiritual colour.

Thanks for your perspective on "purple tea".