Ch¡¯o-ŭi was born in 1786 in Sin-gi Village, Samhyang District, Muan County (ãæÐñ×ì ß²úÁØü ÙâäÌÏÛ) in Chŏlla Province. His family name seems to have been Chang (íå) but in 1800 he became a Buddhist monk and as such never spoke of his family origins to those who later wrote about his life. His first Dharma name was Ui-sun (ëòâá) but after receiving instruction from the Sŏn (Zen) master Wanho Yun-u (èÌûÛ ëÂéÎ) at the temple of Taedun-sa he attained enlightenment and received the name Ch¡¯o-ŭi. In 1809 he first met Tasan Chŏng Yak-Yong who was living in exile in his mother¡¯s native country of Kangjin, only seven or eight miles away. They visited each other and became very close friends. This was unusual, since Tasan was socially superior and a Confucian scholar who had been deeply influenced by the Sŏhak (western learning) that included Catholicism. Usually such men had little or no sympathy with Buddhism. It seems unclear which of the two introduced tea to the other. In 1815, Ch¡¯o-ŭi first visited Seoul and established strong relationships with a number of highly educated scholar-officials, most of whom had been to China, who became his ¡°followers¡±. These included Haegŏ Hong Hyŏn-ju, son-in-law of King Chŏngjo, and the famous calligrapher Ch¡¯usa Kim Chŏng-hŭi. It was most unusual for a Buddhist to be recognized as a poet and thinker in this way by members of the Confucian establishment.
After this, he withdrew to the mountain above Taedun-sa, built a hermitage known as Ilchi-am in 1824, and lived there alone for the next 40 years, practicing meditation and studying the scriptures, In 1830, he composed Chasinjŏn (Tea Spirit Message) as a simple guide to making and drinking tea. In 1831 he once again visited his friends in Seoul, reading and writing poems with them. In the same year, he published a collection of his own poems with prefaces and postscripts by four leading scholar-administrators in which they show their personal interest in Sŏn (Zen) practice and the drinking of tea. He then returned to his hermitage, where he also practiced painting. In 1837 he wrote the set of poems translated below, the Hymns to Korean Tea, at the request of Hong Hyŏn-ju. In 1838 we find him climbing to the topmost peak of the Diamond Mountains, Piro Peak, before visiting the hills around Seoul. From 1840 until 1848, Ch¡¯usa Kim Chŏng-hŭi was exiled to the southern island of Cheju and during those years, Ch¡¯o-ŭi visited him no less than five times, once staying for six months, teaching him about tea and Buddhism.
He remained vigorous and healthy to the end. Early in the morning of the second day of the eighth month1866 he called his attendant to help him get up, sat in the lotus position and passed away (¡®entered Nirvana¡¯).
Gods of earth and heaven arranged for the virtue of the tangerine to become a fine tree.
It received their order, living in the south land, unmoving.
Its flourishing leaves struggle against sleet to stay green throughout the winter,
its white flowers generate prosperity in autumn, bathed in frost.
White and clean as the skin of the Immortal of Mt. Kushe,
the resulting fragrant seeds are like Jambu-river gold.
The dew of the dark night purifies the branches with a green jade color.
The morning mists polish the leaves like green tongues of birds.
All gods, immortals, human beings and ghosts treasure you,
for they know you are sincere, wonderful and peerless.
After the Emperor Shen-neng tasted you, he wrote about you in his Book of Food,
as equal in fame to the finest ghee and sweet nectar.
Wise Chou-kung of Chou testified that tea reduces sleep and sobers the drunkard.
Minister Yen Ying of Ch¡¯i was renowned for his simple meals of vegetables and tea.
Master Yu Hung received a gift of tea after he prayed at Cinnabar Hill where immortals dwell.
One long-haired immortal led master Chin Ching to a clump of tea trees.
One long dead and buried gave a fortune in thanks for a widow¡¯s offerings of tea.
Noblemen recognized tea as the first among the six different kinds of drink.
An unusual tale tells how the first emperor of Sui was cured of a headache by drinking tea.
Thunder Smile tea and Soft Fragrance tea both appeared in due order.
Although the great T¡¯ang revered food and had a hundred delicate flavors,
the garden of Princess Ch¡¯in remembers only Purple Flower tea.
The principles of authentic tea-making are maintained by tradition;
wise men and scholars praise tea¡¯s outstanding taste forever.
Bricks of Dragon and Phoenix tea were beauitifully decorated (for the emperor) with varicolored silks
so manufacturers spent huge sums of money on various bricks of tea.
Yet who knew if the tea itself had genuine color and fragrance?
Even if only contaminated once, tea loses its true nature.
A follower of the Way, Fu Hsi, nobly sought perfect tea,
planting tea with his own hands high on Mount Meng in early times.
When he had obtained good tea, he offered five pounds of it to the king.
That tea was called Auspicious Flowerbud and Sacred Poplar Flower.
The fragrances of Snow Flower and Cloud Pump teas compete,
Paired Wells and Pouring Sun teas are famous in Khiangsu and Chekiang.
In Chienyang and Tanshan, towns of blue water,
Moon Streem and Cloud Niche teas are specially recognized.
The teas of Korea are identical with those from China,
their color, scent and taste compete for the highest merit.
The taste of Luan tea and the medical properties of Mengshan tea are famous
but the great tea masters of the past would highly appreciate Korean tea, that includes both qualities.
ä²êóêáô» ÷êà÷â³Ü¡ÛÝáø÷· ù¼ì¤ò¥ÏýÙÊØòß£îñúÌúèº
Tea restores a young face and vitality to the emaciated as quickly as if by a miracle
so an eighty-year-old man has the peach complexion of youth.
I have a milk-like spring yielding water for Excellent Blue and A Hundred-Year Life teas.
How can I bring some of this water to Old Hae who lives in front of Mount Mongmyok?
(Old Hae is Hong Hyŏn-ju, son in law of King Chŏngjo, to whom the whole poem is dedicated. Mount Myongmok is Nam San in Seoul)
How can I teach the wonderful functions of tea, with its nine difficulties and four fragrances,
to the Son (Zen) practitioners sitting in the Jade Pavillion at Ch¡¯ilbul Temple (in Chiri Mountain)?
If the nine difficulties are overcome, the four sorts of fragrance will develop fully.
Its perfect taste can be presented as an offering within the nine walls of the royal palace.
When tea¡¯s blue waves and green fragrance enter the court of the heart,
intelligance and brightness reach everywhere unimpeded.
Then your spiritual roots will rest on divine mountains,
though in appearance immortals seem a different species.
The green buds and purple shoots of tea emerge through cloud roots,
looking like barbarians¡¯ shoes, a leather chest, a rising wave.
Absorbing much dew on clear nights,
tea yields wonderful fragrance in a state of Samadhi.
ô÷ãêâÌîï ë¢ÍðÎ¦ñéïá ñéïáÝÕÎ¦ËíçÏÜ±
Mysterious delicacy lies at the center, hard to express.
True essence should not be divided into body and spirit, water and tea.
Body and spirit must be equal, without loss of what is fair and appropriate.
What is fair and appropriate is no different from the combined health and subtlety of tea.
Whe I drink a cup of Jade Flower tea, a wind rises under my arms,
my body grows light and I ascend to a state of purity.
The bright moon becomes my candle, my friend,
while white clouds offer me a seat and set up a screen.
Bamboo sounds and pine tree waves together cool me;
clean cold air penetrates my bones, awakens my mind.
I still like a white cloud and the bright moon to be my guests.
Where a Man of the Way sits, those are enough.
The text of the Chinese is from http://seoje.com/dongdasong.htm a page entirely in Korean and Chinese where you will find long explanations of the details of the poem as well as the text of Ch¡¯o-Ui¡¯s own notes.
You can also view the texts of some of his other Tea Poems.