Tea Poems for the Chinese New Year

Tea and Poetry

Photo (c) Designed by Words Writers' Workshop, 2012. Quoted lines from "Seven Bowls of Tea" by Lu Tong translated by Christopher Nelson, cited in http://www.sevencups.com

In honor of Chinese New Year, let’s savor the flavors of these two tea-related poems from the Tang and the Song dynasties. According to Cha Dao, a journal of tea and tea culture, tea and poetry are intricately connected in Chinese culture.

We love how soothing it is to prepare and drink tea, even more when translated as a poem. The first one is a popular excerpt from a longer poem written by the hermit and poet, Lu Tong, in gratitude for a gift of purple bamboo shoot tea given to him by Meng Jian Yi a local official during the Tang dynasty. Most of Lu Tong’s poetry celebrated the tea and tea ceremony.

Here is the “Seven Bowls of Tea” (translated by the poet Christopher Nelson, author of Blue House):

The first cup kisses away my thirst,
and my loneliness is quelled by the second.
The third gives insight worthy of ancient scrolls,
and the fourth exiles my troubles.
My body becomes lighter with the fifth,
and the sixth sends word from immortals.
But the seventh—oh the seventh cup—
if I drink you, a wind will hurry my wings
toward the sacred island.

Source: Seven Cups Fine Chinese Teas which cited the translated poem and Lu Tong’s story; Wikipedia for additional bio of Lu Tong.

The second poem was written by Zhu Xi, a Chinese philosopher from the Lixue school of thought (Neo-Confucianism). According to LaoChaGui*,  Zhu Xi’s poems centered on the tea and tea gardens of Wuyi Mountains (inscribed in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1999) in the Nanping prefecture.

Here is the “Tea Stove” by Zhu Xi:

Stone stove left behind by immortals,
Lies crooked in the center of the stream.

Tea finished, two boats drift on abreast,
Tea smoke; wafting delicate fragrance.*

*Source: “A Song-Dynasty Tea Poem: Zhu Xi’s “Tea Stove,” an article written by LaoChaGui (a professor of American Culture at Wenzhou University, southern Zhejiang) and posted on the Cha Dao Journal on April 15, 2009. Read more here.


If you thirst for more poetry that soothes the soul, join us on March 24, 2012 for “Verses to Nourish the Soul: A Poetry Appreciation Class.” For more details, please click here.

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