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Tao Gu 陶穀 (903-970) on the art of tea

饌茶而幻出物象于湯面者,茶匠通神之藝也。沙門福全,生於金鄉,長於茶海,能注湯幻茶成一句詩,並點四甌,共一絕句,泛乎湯表。小小物類,唾手辦耳。檀越日造門求觀湯戲,全自詠曰:

生成盞裏水丹青,

巧畫工夫學不成。

卻笑當時陸鴻漸,

煎茶贏得好名聲。

In tea drinking, it is a sublime art of tea makers to render images on the surface of the tea. The monk Fuquan,[1] born in Jinxiang and having grown up amidst its ocean of tea, is capable of rendering a poetic line on the tea by pouring water [on it]. [He can even] make four cups of tea at the same time, forming a quatrain on the surface. Such delicate craft is performed in the blink of an eye. Laymen visit him every day in the hope of watching this tea spectacle. [Fu]quan composed the following poem:

In the cup of creation, with pigments in water,

The mastery of such delicate paintings is beyond learning.

[I] only find Lu Hongjian[2] back then laughable,

Who enjoyed a high reputation for boiling tea.


茶至唐始盛。近世有下湯運匕,別施妙訣,使湯紋水脈成物象者,禽獸蟲魚花草之屬,纎巧如畫,但須臾即就散滅,此茶之變也,時人謂之“茶百戲”。

Tea came to its heyday during the Tang. More recently, some play additional tricks by pouring water and drawing with a teaspoon to transform water traces into images [3], such as birds, beasts, insects, fishes, flowers, and plants, all as exquisite as paintings. However, [the images] dissolve and disappear in a moment: this is tea transformation, which is now called “hundreds of tea spectacles”.


* From Tao Gu 陶穀 (903-970),[4] Qingyilu 清異錄, Yingyin Wenyuange Siku Quanshu 景印文淵閣四庫全書 edition (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1987), vol.1047, 2.59a-9b (https://ctext.org/library.pl?if=en&file=1460&page=119).

[1] Fuquan is an otherwise unknown figure. [2] Lu Yu 陸羽 (733-804), courtesy name Hongjian, was the celebrated tea master of the Tang dynasty who authored Chajing 茶經 (The Classic of Tea), China’s first systematic discourse on cultivating, making, and drinking tea. [3] According to modern reconstructions, this refers to the creation of images by adding small amounts of water in a highly controlled manner into the foam on top of the whipped tea, or diancha 點茶, which is believed to be the signature tea ceremony of the Song dynasty.

[4] Tao Gu’s accounts of tea culture are one of the crucial textual sources for modern reconstructions of the tea ceremony of the Song.


Detail of "Niancha tu" 攆茶圖 (Grinding tea) by Liu Songnian 劉松年 (fl. 1225)

Picture credit: National Palace Museum, Taipei

Screenshots of the demonstration of "hundreds of tea spectables" in the TV series Menghua lu 夢華錄(A Dream of Splendour), as reconstructed by Zhang Zhifeng 章志峰

 

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