Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Belt Of Sorrowful Green

The mist appears
as if woven with all the woods
against the cold mountains
stretching into a belt
of sorrowful green.

Li Bai 李白 (701-762) of Tang Dynasty 唐朝
Image: Alberta, Canada

Li Bai was one of the greatest poets of the Tang period. Even after 1300 years he is still remembered and held in high regard and his works continue to influence even today.

Tang 唐朝 and Song 宋朝 periods are the high points of Chinese culture when arts, crafts and trade flourished. It is said that after Tang and Song there is no more good poetry because all the good poems have already been written.

Tea culture not only took root but also took off during Tang and Song. It was in the Tang period that the customs and techniques of tea started to take shape. Tea was given great importance as tea drinking was popular in the Imperial Court. Poems and books on tea were written during this period. Lu Yu 陆羽 (733–804) wrote the first definitive work on tea in his book, "The Classic of Tea" 茶经 (Cha-jing), while Lu Tong 盧仝 (790–835) a poet devoted his life to the study of tea culture and wrote the famous poem, Seven Bowls of Tea.

Song period is famous for its vibrant social life and tea houses became popular. People not only relaxed in tea houses but there were even tea clubs and tea ceremony competitions. Tea techniques were further refined: agricultural practices became more scientific and exact; and ceramic industry benefited greatly by the spread of tea culture. This in turn refined tea culture even more creating a virtuous cycle.

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