Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dark Mountain Hut



No one visits here
in my dark mountain hut
where I live alone.
But for this sweet loneliness
it would be too bleak to bear.

- Saigyo 西行 (1118 – 23 March 1190). Saigyo was a Japanese poet in the late Heian and early Kamakura period. He was from the nobility and was a guard to Emperor Toba 鳥羽天皇 before becoming a monk at a young age. His poems are greatly loved and revered even today.

How appropriate it is to have tea in this place somewhere in the mountains of central Taiwan. 

This is the residence of a devout Buddhist living almost in solitude after long years of service in a temple in south Taiwan. The residence and the garden is designed in Japanese style with a certain sense of Shibusa 渋さ. Even the water for the tea was brought to boil in a Japanese tetsubin which is unusual for drinking teas from Taiwan. Peace and tranquility pervaded the atmosphere. 

Visitors are not allowed as it is a private home. Extremely private, I hasten to add as the few residents spend most of their time in prayers, meditation and household chores. 

A disciple of this person brought me here after a getting a special appointment, just so that we could enjoy tea in this serene place with exceptional water from a nearby mountain spring. These photographs do not do justice to the place and the description here is a very poor substitute to the feeling and ambience that I experienced. It was a perfect setting for drinking and enjoying classic high mountain teas from Taiwan (Meishan 梅山) and Nepal (Jun Chiyabari).

Tea was brought to Japan from China by Buddhist monks and scholars and was propagated by various monasteries. In East Asia, Buddhism and tea were for many years very closely connected. 

So finding myself in this place, that connected all the dots of the tea universe, Chinese culture, Buddhism, tea and Japan, I am transported to another dimension, to the world of the tea poet, Lu Tong 盧仝 (790-835) of Tang dynasty..........
.......I am overcome,
Feeling only a pure wind rushing beneath my wings.

Images: Residence, garden and tea pavilion with a meditation room below. Taiwan March 2014

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