Koreans feel that it is very important to remain natural while drinking tea together. At first the different steps may seem complicated, but it does not take long to master them and for the drinking of tea, alone or with others, to become a part of life. There is no end to the list of benefits attaching to the drinking of green tea. It is good for you in almost every way, unless you drink too much of it on an empty stomach, when it can be irritating.
Yet more than its health benefits, there is the dimension related to the Spirit of Tea, a quasi-religious dimension typified by the name of the tea made by Chae Won-hwa:Panya-ro, the 'Dew of Enlightening Wisdom'. In Korea, the tea revival initiated by the Venerable Hyodang has had a great impact. The Venerable Hyo Dang, Ch'oi Pom-sul, might be considered to be "the Ch'o Ui of the 20th century," for he wrote the first full length study of tea to be published in modern Korea and taught many people about the various aspects of tea. He was a remarkable man: active in the Independence Movement, he founded several schools and a university after 1945, as well as being the teacher of virtually all the leading figures in the modern Korean tea revival. There are now tea rooms in most cities and even quite small towns, there are innumerable tea study groups and research centres, several reviews exist consecrated entirely to the various aspects of tea culture and the Way of Tea.
There are a number of very famous tea masters, who give regular lectures. One of the most important of these is Chae Won-hwa. She studied history at Yonsei University and soon became interested in the history of Korean thought. It was while she was preparing her final graduation thesis that she first met the Venerable Hyo Dang. In the ten years that followed she learned from him every detail of the Way of Tea as well as the method of making the tea he called Panyaro (The Dew of Wisdom).
After his death in 1979 she remained as his recognized successor. In 1981 she launched a study- association devoted to the Panyaro Way of Tea with a small number of like-minded associates. In 1983, the Panyaro Institute for the Way of Tea (see below) was launched in a room in Seoul's Insa-dong (Tel. (82) 02 737 8976) and since then she has instructed hundreds of persons in the Way, including all the leading Korean masters of tea. Several years ago she went back to Yonsei University and did a Master's degree, writing her dissertation about Tea.
She is recognized as Great Tea Master and was honoured by being included among the six hundred exemplary and notable citizens of Seoul whose names were placed in a time capsule buried on Namsan on November 29, 1994 to mark the 600th anniversary of the founding of the Choson Dynasty with Hanyang (now Seoul) as its capital. In another four hundred years, the capsule is destined to be opened and the citizens recalled, on the 1000th anniversary of the city. We cannot know what will be the standing of tea in the world of that time, but it is good that one of modern Korea's greatest tea masters should be among those whose names will be transmitted to distant posterity.
Panyaro Institute for the Way of Tea
Gahoi-dong 31-39, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-260, Korea
Tel: 82-2-763-8486; Fax: 82-2-737-8976
Internet: http://myhome.naver.com/panyaro (only in Korean)
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