Two Korean Tea Classics Compared: Yi Mok’s ChaBu and Cho-ui’s DongChaSong

By Brother Anthony of Taize (An Sonjae)

Published in: Comparative Korean Studies Vol. 18 No. 1 (2010) Pages 7-34

1. Introduction: Situating the Comparisons
2. Comparing the Periods
3. The life of Yi Mok
4. The life of Cho‐ui
5. Yi Mok’s ChaBu and its Sources
6. Cho‐ui’s DongChaSong and its Sources in Comparison
7. Conclusions

1. Introduction: Situating the Comparisons

In the present study, relationships are traced and comparisons of similarities and differences are made between two texts which arose in the same geographic area and historical period, namely Joseon-era Korea (1392 – 1910), texts located within the same general category, namely classical-Chinese texts on the subject of tea. The texts in question are Yi Mok’s ChaBu and Cho-ui’s DongChaSong (the Korean-Chinese character for ‘tea’ is often romanized as ‘da’ but ‘cha’ is the preferred form among Korean tea practitioners). They are separated by nearly four hundred years. Their authors’ biographies are very different, the first having been a scholar engaged in the administrative and political structures of the state, the second a Buddhist monk with no record of formal studies in the Chinese classics. The two texts share a familiarity with certain early Chinese writings devoted to tea, and their treatment of this common source offers a particularly focussed basis for comparisons.
        From early times, Chinese culture has valued the written text highly as a means of memorializing the ordinary events of daily life as well as the great moments of history. It is possible to find works written in classical Chinese about topics that have never inspired the same level of interest among writers in Europe, for example. In China, as in the neighboring countries influenced by Chinese culture, we can find a number of encyclopedic as well as innumerable poetic writings devoted to tea. The practice of tea drinking has long since spread from China across the world, but we look in vain in European or Western culture for any equivalent to this “tea literature.” Poetry-writing in itself long played a role in aristocratic, scholarly Chinese culture that is unparalleled in the West. Educated people would send one another gifts of tea accompanied by specially composed poems, and celebrate an afternoon spent drinking tea together by, again, specially composed poems. The same traditions accompanied the enjoyment of wine.
        Still today, people living in East Asia who cultivate the Way of Tea will usually also be familiar with a number of essential tea classics, and tend to locate their practice of tea by reference to these, rather than by a more spontaneous esthetic or social framework. Since the revival of tea in Korea after 1945 by such pioneers as the Venerable Hyodang Choi Beom-sul (1904-1979), author of the pioneering Hangugui ChaDo, it has been customary for Koreans to cultivate the Way of Tea by studying ancient texts, while learning a modernized practice of tea-brewing and, increasingly, developing an interest in the actual preparation of tea by various methods of drying. The most important texts currently studied in Korean tea circles are the ChaJing 茶經 Classic of Tea, by Lu Yü 陸羽 (733-804) composed in China during the Tang dynasty, the ChaBu 茶賦 Rhapsody to Tea by the Korean Hanjae Yi Mok 寒齋 李穆 (1471-1498), the ChaSinJeon 茶神傳 A Chronicle of the Spirit of Tea, a Chinese Ming-dynasty text transcribed by the Venerable Cho-ui 艸衣 (1786-1866), and the DongChaSong 東茶頌 Hymn in Praise of Korean Tea, an original poetic composition by the same Cho-ui.
        The lack of interest in such texts in the West is so complete that still now the only English translation of the Chinese Classic of Tea available is a very defective one first published in the 1970s. No translation of Yi Mok’s text has ever been published. The English versions of Cho-ui’s text recently published are far from satisfactory as English and lack detailed annotations. At a time when there is all over the world an increasing interest in tea as something far more than a mere means of quenching thirst and staying awake, when many tea-drinkers in the West are turning away from the traditional black teas to various green teas in the name of “well-being,” and cultivating more‘oriental’ways of serving tea, too, a few now feel a desire to read what has been written about tea in the lands where it was first discovered and developed. Currently, the main concern in the West is still to establish a precise chronological narrative for the spread of tea-drinking across and beyond the Chinese-character cultural region.
        In Korea, where tea has long been drunk, most people today know more about varieties of coffee than about the Korean tradition of tea. The same loss of interest in traditional Korean culture can be found in all areas, music and the arts, certainly, but above all in the inability of younger generations to read the treasures of literature and thought composed in past centuries by their ancestors in Classical Chinese. It is only a very small minority in today’s Korea who make the effort required to be able to understand the Chinese classics, and the use of simplified characters in China has rendered them inaccessible to ordinary readers even there. Since the author of this paper has just published an English translation of the three Korean tea texts listed above, this may be a good moment to write something about two of them and the differences between the approaches to tea found in their works.

2. Comparing the Periods
The first point of comparison that has to be made is that the two writers Yi Mok and Cho-ui lived in very different moments of the same Joseon Era. With the passage of time and the loss of so many earlier records, it is difficult to obtain vivid, detailed information about Yi Mok, who was born in 1471, less than a hundred years after the foundation of the Joseon dynasty in 1392. His early execution was caused by the shadows cast by the brutal changes of those years, when many still harbored a nostalgia for the previous Goryeo dynasty and the new regime felt threatened by that. We have the long celebration of tea that he wrote, and other writings, but we know virtually nothing about the sources he used or his reasons for writing a text that has no parallel, in Korea or in China.
        Cho-ui was born in 1786, very soon after the first Korean Catholic believers had been baptized in 1784. They were scholars who had learned about Catholicism from books written in Chinese by such remarkable figures as Matteo Ricci. Those same books had opened the eyes of a wider community of Korean scholars to the new possibilities available through other aspects of Western learning, such as geography, mechanics, astronomy, and the resulting reform movement was soon to provoke political repression just as Catholicism, by its rejection of traditional ancestral rites, provoked fierce persecutions.
        The meeting with the exiled scholar Dasan Jeong Yak-Yong 茶山 丁若鏞 (1763–1836) brought the young Cho-ui into direct contact with a man who had been deeply marked by both sides of that equation, scientific and religious. Dasan, together with his older brother Augustine Jeong Yak-Jong (1760–1801), were among the early converts to Catholicism but by the time of the first persecutions in 1801, Dasan seems to have already distanced himself from the new faith. His brother was martyred, and later his brother’s son, St. Paul Jeong Hasang (1794/5–1839), followed his father into martyrdom. Scholars still debate Dasan’s attitude toward Catholicism, but his mastery of the new engineering technology is well documented. He supervised the construction of Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon in the early 1790s. Between the time when Cho-ui lived and today, Korea has known enormous changes but some of the buildings that Cho-ui saw are still standing, one or two temples halls still contain paintings made by him, and the direct descendants of people he knew still boast of their ancestors’ achievements. In some senses, he can be considered a pioneer of modern approaches and his close relationships with aristocratic scholars who would normally have been expected to despise him as a Buddhist monk suggest the beginnings of a new openness within late Joseon society.

3. The life of Yi Mok
Hanjae Yi Mok 寒齋 李穆 (1471-1498) was born in the seventh month in the second year of the reign of King Seongjong 成宗 (r 1469-1495) in Gageum-ri, in what is now Haseong-myeon, Gimpo city in Gyeonggi Province, the second son of Yi Yun-Saeng 李閏生 (dates unknown) who had the title of Chamui 参議, Third Minister. His clan was the Jeonju Yi clan. In a poem to a younger brother, Mi-Ji 微之 (dates unknown), he wrote:

Our Yi clan has long been a studious one
loving books, not wealth.
Our elderly parents are already white-haired
while you and I are still active gentlemen.
The crane dreams of a pine on a cliff
and the steam from tea fills the moonlit valley.
While you tirelessly advance in quest of truth,
do not look up at the clouds on the mountain peaks.

He began schooling in his eighth year, and in his fourteenth year became the pupil of the scholar Jeompiljae Kim Jong-Jik 佔畢齋 金宗直 (1431-1492). It seems that his teacher was a tea lover who communicated his enthusiasm to his pupils. In 1489, he passed the First State Examination (Chinsa-kwa 進士科) and entered the Confucian Academy (Seonggyun’gwan 成均館). At that time, the scholar Sayun Kim Su-Son 士允 金首孫 was teaching there and, recognizing his qualities, arranged for him to marry one of his daughters. While he was studying, the king fell sick and his mother, the queen-mother, ordered a shaman to pray for his recovery. As Confucians, the students disapproved strongly; they went and drove the shaman away with clubs. The king, furious, ordered a list of the students to be made and all but Yi Mok ran away; impressed by his sincerity, the king is said to have praised him and sent a gift of wine. However, Yi Mok was later sent in exile to Gongju for a time, returning to Seoul in his 21st year.
        In his 25th year he went to study in Beijing for a short period. While he was in China he may well have been in contact with scholars who introduced him directly to the Ming dynasty practices of tea and to the main Chinese texts about tea, which clearly influenced his writing. There is no indication as to when or why he composed the ChaBu, which is unlike any other text devoted to the Way of Tea found in Korea or China, although the influence of the Classic of Tea and other Chinese tea texts is evident in it. On returning from China, he took the Daegwa 大科 Higher State Examination in 1495 and was awarded the highest place. In his 26th year he was appointed to a junior administrative position over the military in what is now South Hamgyeong Province (North Korea) but in the following year he was given leave and continued his studies in private; in this year his son Yi Se-Jang 李世璋 (1497-1562 ) was born.
        In 1494, the ill-fated Prince Yeonsan 燕山君 (r. 1494-1506) came to the throne. 1498 saw the Muo Sahwa 戊午士禍, one of twelve violent “literati purges” caused by power struggles between different factions within the ruling class. In the Muo purge, the deceased Kim Jong-Jik was Yeonsan’s prime target, because Kim had written a veiled attack on the prince’s great-grandfather, King Sejo 世祖 (r 1455-1468), who instituted the purges of 1453-1455. The body of Kim was exhumed and decapitated and on the 26th day of the 7th month in 1498 Hanjae Yi Mok, one of his most cherished pupils, was executed. He is reported to have behaved with great courage, writing a final poem, then calmly going out to execution as if nothing special were happening to him.

Song at the end of my life
To that place where black crows gather
no white seagull should go.
Those crows in anger
will be jealous of its whiteness
and that body washed clean in pure river water
will be fouled, I fear, by impure blood.
Closing the book and opening the window
I saw a white gull playing on the pure river.
I thoughtlessly spat,
leaving a mark on the back on the white gull.
White seagull, do not be angry.
I spat because those worldly people are so foul.

In 1504, after Prince Yeonsan learned that his mother had been executed by being forced to drink poison in 1482, he went berserk and ordered the Gapcha Sahwa 甲子士禍 purge, in which officials of both rival groups were executed. A second condemnation was delivered against the deceased Yi Mok and his bones were dug up, his grave demolished. Later in the year, Yeonsan was deposed, sent into exile and died. After a change in factional power in 1552, Yi Mok’s reputation was restored. In 1717-22 various posthumous titles and honors were bestowed on him, including the title Ijopanseo 吏曹判事 (Minister of Personnel). In 1726, under King Yeongjo 英祖 (r 1724-1776), permission was given for him to be honored in a special shrine as well as in a Confucian academy in Gongju and another shrine in Jeonju. His cenotaph-grave with its memorial shrine in Gimpo is still the site of regular ceremonies by his descendants. Recently a grove of tea bushes has been planted there, from which tea is made for offerings in his shrine.
        The writings left by Yi Mok were first collected by his son Yi Se-Jang and printed in the Yipyeong-sajip 李評事集 A Collection of Commentaries by Yi Mok in 1631 by his grandson Yi Cheol 李鐵 (1540-1604). In modern times, an edition was published by his descendants in 1914 and this was republished in 1981. The most recent, very fully annotated edition and Korean-language translation of the ChaBu is that by Yi Byeong-In and Yi Yeong-Gyeong (Seoul: Cha wa saram, 2007).

4. The life of Cho-ui
Unlike Yi Mok, there is no indication that Cho-ui’s family had aristocratic (yangban) status. The Venerable Cho-ui 艸衣 (1786-1866) was born on the 5th day of the 4th lunar month, 1786, in Singi Village, Samhyang District, Muan County (新基里 三鄕面 務安郡) in what is now known as South Jeolla Province. His family name was Jang 張, his original name was Ui-sun 意恂. In his 16th year he first became a monk at Unheung-sa temple (雲興寺) on the slopes of Deokyong-san in Dado District, Naju County, South Jeolla Province, under the guidance of the Venerable Byeokbong Minseong 碧峰 敏性. In his 19th year, after an enlightenment experience on Wolchul-san in Yeong’am, he received ordination from the Seon (Zen) master Wanho Yunu 玩虎 倫佑 at the temple of Daedun-sa 大芚寺 (now known as Daeheung-sa 大興寺), receiving the name Cho-ui. In addition to scholarly learning, Cho-ui was a skilled painter in both scholarly and Buddhist styles, and a noted performer of Beompae 梵貝 Buddhist ritual song and dance.
        In 1806 he first met Dasan, who was living in political exile in his mother’s native country of Gangjin, only seven or eight miles away from Daedun-sa, and Dasan’s tea master, the Venerable A’am Hyejang 兒庵 惠藏, the head monk of the nearby Baegnyeon Temple 白蓮寺. In 1809, he is reported to have spent several months in Gangjin, learning the YiJing 易經 Book of Changes and classical Chinese poetry from Dasan, who seems to have learned more about tea from him in return. This was probably the starting-point for Cho-ui’s knowledge of the Confucian classics. The two men became very close, despite Dasan being socially superior and a Confucian scholar who had been deeply influenced by the Seohak 西學 Western Learning that included Catholicism. Usually such men had little or no sympathy with Buddhism. It is a testament to Cho-ui’s human and scholarly qualities that he won the admiration of Jeong Yak-Yong and other literati.
        In 1815, Cho-ui first visited Seoul and established strong relationships with a number of highly educated scholar-officials, several of whom had been to China, who became his friends and followers. These included the son-in-law of King Jeongjo 正祖 (r 1776-1800), Haegeo Doin Hong Hyeon-Ju 海居 道人 洪顯周 (1793-1865) and his brother Yeoncheon Hong Seok-Ju 淵泉 洪奭周 (1774-1842), the son of Dasan, Unpo Jeong Hak-Yu 耘逋 丁學游 (1786-1855), as well as the famous calligrapher Chusa Kim Jeong-Hui 秋史 金正喜 (1786-1856) with his brothers Sanchon Kim Myeong-Hui 山泉 金命喜 (1788-1857) and Geummi Kim Sang-Hui 琴糜 金相喜 (1794-1861). It was most unusual for a Buddhist monk, who as such was assigned the lowest rank in society, together with mudang 巫堂 shamans and kisaengs 妓生 courtesans, to be recognized as a poet and thinker in this way by members of the Confucian establishment. As a monk, Cho-ui was not allowed to enter the city walls of Seoul and had to receive visits from these scholars while living in Cheongnyang temple 淸涼寺 outside the capital’s eastern gate or in a hermitage in the hills to the north.
        Once he was in his forties, he withdrew to the mountain above Daedun-sa, in the far south-west region of Korea, built a hermitage known as Ilchi-am 一枝庵 in 1824, and lived there alone for the next forty years, practicing meditation in a manner he developed and wrote about, provoking a methodological dispute that lasted long after his death. In 1828, during a visit to Chilbul hermitage 七佛庵 in Jiri Mountain, Cho-ui transcribed a Ming Chinese text on tea. Two years later on his return to Ilchi-am, he made clean copies of that text, producing the ChaSinJeon 茶神傳 Chronicle of the Spirit of Tea destined to serve as a simple guide to the basic principles involved in making and drinking tea.
        In 1831 he once again visited his friends in Seoul, reading and writing poems with them. In the same year, he published a now lost collection of his own poems with prefaces and postscripts by four leading scholar-administrators in which they show their personal interest in Seon 禪 Zen practice and the drinking of tea. He then returned to his hermitage, where he wrote and painted. In 1837 he composed the DongChaSong 東茶頌 Hymn in Praise of Korean Tea, at the request of Hong Hyeon-Ju. In 1838 we find him climbing to the topmost peak of the Diamond Mountains, Biro Peak, before visiting the hills around Seoul. In his fifty-fifth year, he received the title Daegakdeunggyebojejonja Cho-ui DaeJongSa 大覺登階普濟尊者 草衣 大宗師 the Great Monk Cho-ui, Master of Supreme Enlightenment, from King Heonjong 憲宗 (r 1834 - 1849). In his 58th year he visited his childhood home and saw his parents’ graves covered with weeds, an evocative event he marked in a poem.
        From 1840 until 1848, Chusa Kim Jeong-Hui was exiled to the southern island of Cheju and during those years, Cho-ui visited him no less than five times, once staying for six months, teaching him about tea and Buddhism. When Chusa was freed, he visited Cho-ui at Ilchi-am as soon as he arrived on the mainland on his way back to Seoul. Kim Jeong-Hui died in the 10th month of 1856, and a little later, Cho-ui, already 71, visited his friend’s grave near Asan, to the south-west of Seoul.  
        Cho-ui remained vigorous and healthy to the end, all the time practicing Seon meditation. Early in the morning of the second day of the seventh month of 1866 he called his attendant to help him get up, sat in the lotus position and entered Nirvana.
        A number of paintings by Cho-ui have been preserved. The text of the ChaSinJeon has come down in three ancient copies, none of them in the handwriting of the author. One of these copies is preserved in the Amore Museum in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province. The text of the DongChaSong was originally distributed in six copies. Those belonging to the author and Hong Hyeon-Ju are lost, one is preserved in the Amore Museum, the others or copies derived from them are in private collections.

5. Yi Mok’s ChaBu and its Sources
The contents of Yi Mok’s ChaBu can be divided into eight sections: 1) Preface, 2) the names for tea, 3) tea-growing regions, 4) Tea-Forest Landscapes, 5) Seven Bowls of Tea, 6) the five merits of tea, 7) the six virtues of tea, 8) Epilogue. It is a strange mixture of contents and styles, and one might wonder if the text is in its final form. Perhaps, if he had lived, Yi Mok might have continued to develop it. The first thing that strikes the reader is the complete lack of any direct quotation from the Classic of Tea by Lu Yü, although the opening lines clearly state that it was the Classic that first opened Yi Mok’s eyes to the value of tea: “I was not familiar with tea, but after reading Lu Yü’s Classic of Tea I discovered something of its true nature and came to value tea immensely”(ChaBu page 1). Parts of the text are ‘encyclopedic,’ the second and third sections being simply uncommented lists of names, of various kinds of (mostly caked) Chinese teas, and of the regions in China producing tea. There is not a single reference in the ChaBu to Korea. The sections about the five merits and the six virtues of tea are also in a sense ‘encyclopedic,’ in that they are lists, but they are made complex by their stream of references to characters and events from the Chinese classics, references which are mostly limited to the names of persons, the reader being expected to be familiar with the stories evoked.
The four sections titled Preface, Tea-Forest Landscapes, Seven Bowls of Tea, and Epilogue are essentially lyric in tone. There are no detailed descriptions of the ways in which the different kinds of tea are dried, and only the briefest indication, at the start of Seven Bowls of Tea, of how tea is brewed. That is presumably because Yi Mok did not wish to repeat what had already been fully expressed by Lu Yü. The lyricism of the Tea-Forest Landscape section is remarkable, coming immediately after the arid enumeration of the lists of tea-names and place-names. Here for the first time we realize how intensely Yi Mok has absorbed the Taoist vision of nature that gave birth to Chinese and Korean landscape painting:

Only yonder beautiful tea tree, ahead of all the rest, advances toward early spring, monopolizing the heavens. Russet, light green, dark green, yellow, early, late, short, long, issuing from the roots, rising through branches, sending out leaves, offering shade, spitting out shoots of pure gold, lushly jade-green, forming forests luxuriantly dense, sensuously beautiful, wonderful and stately, like clouds rising and mists thickening, truly the most glorious sight under Heaven!  I pick and pluck the tender buds.  Buds plucked and gathered and loaded on my back, I return to the valley, playing my flute. (ChaBu Section 4)

The most interesting echo of an earlier poetic celebration of tea is found in the Seven Bowls of Tea section:

On drinking the first cup, the withered entrails are washed clean.
On drinking the second cup, the lively soul desires to be immortal
On drinking the third cup, the sick body awakes, headaches vanish, and the mind is in accord with the ideals and moderation of the lofty Old Man of Lu (Confucius) and the great Old Man of Zou (Mencius).
On drinking the fourth cup, cares and rancor vanish, a vigor ensues like that of Confucius climbing Taishan and declaring that the world is small. It is unlikely that such a gift as this is so easily acquired.
On drinking the fifth cup, lust suddenly disappears; like listening to a corpse, it is blind and deaf. The release is like being dressed in a coat of clouds and feathered robes, and urging on the flight of the white Luan to the Moon.
On drinking the sixth cup, sun and moon seem to have entered one’s heart, all that exists is here on this bamboo mat, the wonder of it is like following ahead of the sages of old Chaofu and Xu You, walking behind Boyi and Shuqi, rising into the Mysterious Void and bowing before the Celestial Emperor.
On drinking less than half of the seventh cup, emotions swell on a fragrant, pure wind, wafting towards the Gates of Heaven very near the majestic forests on the borders of Penglai.  (ChaBu Section 5)

This celebration of the seven bowls is clearly inspired by famous lines from a letter-poem that a Chinese Taoist recluse and tea-lover, Lu Tong 陸仝 (775-835), wrote to Meng Jian 孟簡 (?-824), the Grand Master of Remonstrance, an imperial advisor whose duty was to correct and admonish the emperor on policy and matters of state, thanking him for a large package of exceptionally rare Yang-hsien tea, normally reserved for the Emperor in person. The original title was 走筆謝孟諫議寄新茶 (Writing Thanks to Imperial Grand Master of Remonstrance Meng for Sending New Tea) but it is usually simply called the “Song of Tea.” The most famous, central portion, which is often quoted in isolation, lists the effect of successive cups of this very rare tea:

The first bowl moistens my lips and throat.
The second bowl banishes my loneliness and melancholy.
The third bowl penetrates my withered entrails,
finding nothing except a literary core of five thousand scrolls.
The fourth bowl raises a light perspiration,
casting life’s inequities out through my pores.
The fifth bowl purifies my flesh and bones.
The sixth bowl makes me one with the immortal, feathered spirits.
The seventh bowl I need not drink,
feeling only a pure wind rushing beneath my wings.
Where are the immortal isles of Mount Penglai?
(Song of Tea lines 21-31)

Lu Tong and Meng Jian were only a few decades younger than the author of the Tea Classic, Lu Yü, whose great work was published when Lu Tong was five years old, in 780. The most important link between the two Chinese tea masters and the Korean Yi Mok is their knowledge of esoteric Taoism, most clearly expressed by the way both Lu Tong’s lines and Yi Mok’s end with a mention of Mount Penglai, the island home of the (Taoist) immortals. The quest of Taoist hermits such as Lu Tong was to attain such a perfect harmony with nature through elixirs and meditation that the result would be immortality. Lu Tong and Yi Mok both make it clear in their songs that by the seventh cup they feel they are on the verge of fulfilling that quest, thanks to tea. Steven D. Owyoung has explained that, although normally tea is expected to yield only three cups or brews before its qualities are exhausted, the figure three was far more symbolic than that:

Three was the perfect number in tea and Taoism. As a prime, three was especially potent in the Taoist naming of fundamental things: Three Primordials, Three Primary Vitalities, Three Powers, Kinship of Three, and so on. Lu Yü favored the number in the Ch’a-ching by using three as a mystical constant. For instance, the bronze brazier he used as a tea stove was a tripod with three legs, three vents, three inscriptions, three trigrams, three elements, and three cardinal animals. By using the number three, Lu Yü adhered to Taoist practice and faith in numerological power. (ChaDao blog)

Lu Tong’s poem, by listing up to seven bowls prepared from a single portion of tea (the number is followed by Yi Mok’s), stresses the extraordinary quality of the imperial tea he has received by showing how its magical powers continued to purify him as he drank on and on, up to an unimaginable seventh cup, by which time he did not even have to drink, so spiritual he had become. It should be noticed that Yi Mok explicitly places the great Confucian figures Confucius and Mencius rather low down on his scale, with their state of moral and mental perfection being equaled at the third cup and the highest mystical insight of Confucius at the fourth cup. Equally interesting is the way in which Yi Mok imitates the older poem by introducing the seven cups by a brief description of tea-brewing:

Bring out a jade bowl and wash it yourself, boil water from a rocky spring, then observe how the pale steam brims at the lip of the bowl like summer clouds issuing from mountain streams and peaks, and white billowing waves form as if dashing down a swollen river in spring. The sound of water boiling blows, whistling like a frosty wind through bamboos and pines, while the fragrance of the brewed tea drifts like a ship of war, flying towards the Red Cliff. (ChaBu Section 5)

This seems clearly to echo the prescriptions for tea-brewing found in the Tea Classic, and is paralleled by Lu Tong’s shorter but similar description of the perfect cup of tea:  

The brushwood gate is closed against vulgar visitors; all alone, I don my gauze cap, brewing and tasting the tea. Clouds of green yielding; unceasingly, the wind blows; radiantly white, floating tea froth congeals against the bowl. (The Song of Tea lines 17 – 20)

Both texts recall the stress also found in the Tea Classic on the beauty of the contrast between the green of the liquid and the white foam floating on it. The Taoism of Yi Mok is equally clear in the evocations of the five “merits” and six “virtues” of tea that follow this section, again using Taoist criteria of medical efficacity connected with the various elixirs thought to produce immortality. The five merits are connected with the physical, curative properties of tea for people who study too hard (their teeth fall out), who are imprisoned for political reasons, who meet for diplomatic negotiations, for hermits striving to control their passions, and for courtiers with hang-overs after too much wine. The six virtues of tea are higher, moral qualities:

By allowing people to enjoy long lives, it has the virtue of longevity of the Emperors Yao and Shun; by curing diseases, it has the virtue of benevolence of the doctors Yu Fu and Bian Que; by easing people’s minds, it has the noble integrity of Bo Yi and Yang Zhen; by making people’s hearts glad, it has the virtue of the Two Old Men and the Four Greybeards of Mount Shang; by enabling people to become immortal, it possesses the lofty virtues of the Yellow Emperor and Laozi; by providing people with ceremony, it bestows the virtue of civility of Ji Dan and Confucius. (ChaBu Section 7)

The lists of names taken from classical sources without any summary of the stories associated with them is characteristic of the scholars of this time, who were writing for a community of aristocrats sharing the same education and therefore familiar with the same figures and tales. Yi Mok ends his celebration of tea on a note of high rapture that stands in stark contrast with the senseless, undeserved violence that was to end his life almost before it had begun, in his twenty-eighth year:

Wisdom is to float like an empty boat on water; Benevolence is to admire the trees and fruit of the mountain. When the spirit moves the heart, it enters the Wondrous, even without seeking pleasure, pleasure arises. This is the tea of my heart, it is needless to seek another. (ChaBu Section 8)

It is impossible to know what impact, if any, Yi Mok’s text had at the time it was composed. It was preserved together with his other writings thanks to his immediate descendants, and so transmitted until the recent Korean tea revival brought it to light. We can only wish that a comparable text centered on the tea produced in Korea from the same early period had been written and preserved.

6. Cho-ui’s DongChaSong and its Sources in Comparison
When Cho-ui wrote his DongChaSong, his great celebration of Korean tea, in 1837, there is no indication that he had ever read Yi Mok’s ChaBu. He did, however, know the Chinese Classic of Tea very well, as can be seen by his quotations from it. One fundamental difference between the two Korean texts is formal. The ChaBu is in prose, whereas Cho-ui writes his main text in stanzas of four 7-character lines. In order to introduce additional contents without being too constrained, he frequently interrupts his stanzas with prose notes of varying length. His tone is far from the high-flown rapture of Yi Mok and his world view is far less markedly Taoist, as would be expected in a Buddhist monk, although he too is familiar with Chinese mythology, which is usually Taoist in origin.
        Quite near the start, in the third stanza, the poetic line “The Emperor Yandi tasted it, then he wrote about it in his Classic of Food” is given the commentary: “The Emperor Yandi wrote in his Classic of Food: ‘If a person drinks tea for a long time, it gives him strength and contentment of mind’.” We note that Cho-ui never uses the character for “tea” in his poetic lines, only in the commentaries. This commentary might seem somewhat pedantic and of limited interest, unless we realize that it is in fact borrowed directly from the Classic of Tea, the seventh chapter of which is titled “Writings on Tea” and forms an anthology of quotations about tea from ancient authors. The Emperor Yandi was also known as Shen Nong, the Divine Farmer, and is a legendary ruler who is said to have first taught agriculture to the Chinese some 5000 years ago, after testing hundreds of herbs on himself. He was an essentially Taoist hero, intent on discovering the life-giving treasures hidden in nature.
        The same is true of the source of the story that follows immediately after this, of two princes visiting a Buddhist monk and amazed by his tea. The second line of Cho-ui’s fourth stanza celebrates Yan Ying of Qi, the commentary explaining that his frugal lifestyle included tea, again a detail taken from the Classic of Tea’s seventh chapter, as are the two following lines that evoke Yü Hong and Qin Jing, figures from two Taoist stories about mortals who are shown where fine tea grows by Taoist hermits or immortals encountered in the hills. The commentary to a line in the fifth stanza, “Fragrant tea stills the six passions, the spreading taste fills the whole space under Heaven” sounds much like something we might find in Yi Mok, but it too is in fact taken from the Classic of Tea. In all there are at least six such echoes of lines from the Classic of Tea and each of them to a greater or lesser extent imparts a Taoist flavor to Cho-ui’s text.
        There are multiple references to other writings, too, as he weaves a network of allusions to the literature celebrating tea written in China before turning, in the middle of stanza eleven, to Korea and his own community of tea friends. The abrupt transition from remote and abstruse literary references to personal experience is startling: “I have a rock spring, so I brew Excellent Blue and A Hundred-Year Life. How shall I offer some to Old Hae at the foot of Mongmyeok Mountain?” “Old Hae”is Haegeo Doin Hong Hyeon-Ju (1793-1865), the aristocratic friend to whom the whole poem is dedicated. He was a great lover of tea and composed many tea poems. Mongmyok Mountain is an older name for Mount Namsan in Seoul. The rest of the poem remains firmly located in the Korea of Cho-ui’s time.
        What might have been Cho-ui’s purpose in writing the DongChaSong? The title suggests a celebration of Korean tea, and certainly there are lines in what follows where he claims that Korean tea is as good as any produced in China. But a commentary in stanza 12 perhaps indicates a more satiric or pedantic purpose:

In Jiri Mountain’s Hwagae village, tea trees grow in profusion for forty or fifty ri over a wide area. I believe there to be no larger tea field in our country. Above Hwagae village lies the Jade Floating Terrace, and below it is Chilbul Meditation Hall. Those meditating there often picked tea late, old leaves and dried them in the sun. Using firewood, they cooked them over a brazier, like boiling vegetable soup. The brew was strong and turbid, reddish in color, the taste extremely bitter and astringent. As Jeong-So said : ‘Heaven’s good tea is often ruined by vulgar hands’. (DongChaSong stanza 12)

Nobody knows who that sensible Jeong-So was, perhaps a simple servant or novice, but he clearly echoes Cho-ui’s own feelings on being offered such a noxious brew in the name of tea. After so much time spent in the timeless spheres of Chinese myth and poetry, it is strange to be moved suddenly to places that remain familiar, Hwagae and Chilbul Temple, and to a less than idyllic tea experience. Remarkably, the method used by the monks to prepare their tea is recognizably that which is still practiced by ordinary people living in the parts of Korea where wild tea is found, around Jiri-san in particular. There, the disagreeable taste is seen as a guarantee of the medical efficacy of the brew, which is usually prepared when people feel that they have caught a cold or need to be fortified. Cho-ui’s poem seems designed at least in part, as his ChaSinJeon was, to teach its readers that tea can be prepared, brewed and drunk in a far more rewarding, spiritual manner.
        The following lines return to a higher, poetic tone as they evoke a very different level of tea culture and they rise to an unexpected climax: “When I drink one cup of Jade Flower, a breeze rises beneath my arms, my body grows light and I ascend to a state of supreme purity.” So at last Cho-ui joins hands with Yi Mok as he in turn offers a variation on the last cup in Lu Tong’s “Song of Tea” with those lines. The image of the breeze rising beneath the arms can surely have no other source. It is a breath-taking claim, in any case. Where Lu Tong was obliged to drink six if not seven cups of the rarest imperial tea to reach such a high spiritual state, Cho-ui says that he is there with the first sip of the first cup! In the light of that echo, we may claim that the concluding lines of the DongChaSong contain a particularly resonant declaration that the Sŏn-Buddhist state achieved by drinking a cup of tea alone in peaceful surroundings is far superior to the ‘immortality’ sought so laboriously by the Taoists:

The bright moon becomes my candle, my friend,
a white cloud becomes my cushion, my screen.
The sound of bamboo oars and wind in pine trees, solitary and refreshing,
penetrates my weary bones, awakens my mind, so clear and cool.
With no other guests but a white cloud and the bright moon,
I am raised to a place far higher than any immortal.
(DongChaSong stanza 17)

However, the claim made in the last line takes us back to Lu Tong’s “Song of Tea” and suggests that Cho-ui considers his own practice of Buddhist Sŏn (Zen) meditation to be a far better way than that of the Taoist hermits with their elixirs and their yoga. What unites the two Korean writers, though, is the delight they experienced before a simple cup of tea, by which the individual human person attains harmony with nature and a state approaching poetic rapture, if not actual immortality and enlightenment.

7. Conclusions
    The comparison between Yi Mok and Cho-ui makes clear the very strong continuities of classical-Chinese literary culture. For both men, Lu Yü’s Tang Dynasty  Classic of Tea was the fundamental textual reference by which to approach the Way of Tea; in addition, both were familiar with Lu Tong’s “Song of Tea” which dates from the same period. However, within China, the way of preparing tea described in the Tang texts disappeared with the start of the Ming Dynasty, after which tea was no longer prepared as caked tea but as loose dried leaves, while the method of brewing changed from boiling ground caked tea in a cauldron to infusing leaves in a tea pot. Such a radical change in Chinese tea practice is known to have reached Japan by the later 18th century but both Korean texts refer to the methods described in the Classic of Tea as if they were still followed to the letter in Korea, which they may have been, even in the 19th century.
        The main conclusion must be that both Korean writers were deeply influenced by the Taoist language of Lu Yü’s text; in particular, the anthology of quotations forming its seventh chapter was a vital source for Cho-ui. The vision of tea common to both Korean writers is expressed in terms of the harmony between the human subject and the cosmic world exemplified in the Taoist ‘immortals’ and for both writers drinking tea is seen as offering a purification superior by far to the often poisonous and always laboriously manufactured diets of elixirs practiced by many Taoist hermits. In the strongly Confucian world of Joseon Dynasty culture, it seems that the practice of tea, combined with the study of the Classic of Tea and Lu Tong’s “Song of Tea” led both aristocratic, Confucian scholars like Yi Mok and Buddhist ascetics like Cho-ui to adopt the language of Taoist mysticism, in their attempts to express their experience of the benefits they derived from refined tea-drinking. For both men, the experience of tea could only be adequately expressed through poetic images evoking an ultimate transcendence that neither Confucianism nor Buddhism had a language for.

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Two Korean Tea Classics Compared: Yi Mok’s ChaBu and Cho-ui’s DongChaSong

This paper sets out to compare two texts written about the Way of Tea (차도) during the Joseon Dynasty. Both were composed in classical Chinese and both refer explicitly to the Tang Dynasty Classic of Tea by Lu Yü as well as to other ancient Chinese texts. However, Yi Mok lived in the later 15th century, while Cho-ui flourished during the first half of the 19th century.
The ChaBu by Yi Mok is a strange combination of arid lists and lyrical prose. The poetic sections evoking the landscapes in which tea grows and the ways in which tea raises the drinker to high levels of spiritual attainment in harmony with nature, are clearly strongly influenced by Taoism. In this the ChaBu is closely related to the Chinese tea texts of the Tang Dynasty.
In contrast to the ChaBu, the main text of Cho-ui’s DongChaSong is in verse. In it, Cho-ui seems to be affirming that the Buddhist monk who practices “Seon” meditation is already on a far higher spiritual level than the Taoist hermit. However, Yi Mok and Cho-ui both employ Taoist terminology in order to express the spiritual benefits derived from drinking tea, inspired as they both were by the great Tang masters. This suggests a great similarity between the two writers, despite the difference in their historical contexts and life histories.

Key words :  tea, Chinese classics, Yi Mok, Cho-ui, ChaBu, DongChaSong,  Lu Yü, Lu Tong, Taoism, Sŏn, Buddhism