The Song of Tea

“I am not at all interested in immortality, only in the taste of tea.”
-Lu Tong

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.

-Translation from Chinese: Steven Owyoung

Tang dynasty poet Lu Tong (790-835) was, by all accounts, a romantic fellow, a dreamer and an independent soul moved by strong Taoist beliefs. Though born into aristocracy, he chose poetry over a career in the emperor’s courts, living for a time as a hermit on Mount Sung, one of the five sacred Taoist mountains. Tea was one of his greatest passions, as well as his muse.

Despite his peaceful life, he died a violent death during a eunuch uprising in Emperor Wenzong’s court. Lu Tong’s legacy lives on, however, in his “Song of Tea,” a longer poem whose most famed passage is the lines above.

lu-tong
Main image: Seven Bowls of Tea
Above: “Lu Tong brewing tea” by Qian Xuan