Seven Bowls of Tea 七碗茶 – Tang Dynasty Poem by Lu Tong

Wenzhuo Liu

“When drinking the first bowl of tea, I feel moist in my throat and lip; the second bowl dispels the loneliness and boredom in my heart; during the third bowl, I’m embarrassed at creativeness, and start to search for new knowledges; the fourth bowl is drunk out, my grievances along with my light sweat dissipate through pores; the fifth bowl refreshes myt mind; the sixth bowl can help to communicate with immortals; after the seventh bowl, I feel that I’m extraordinary and refined, a slight breeze crushed my arms. Where is the Penglai Mountain? With this wind, I, Yu Chuan Zi, want to fly to there.”


Tea Preparation 备茶图 – Liao Dynasty Mural of Zhang Kuangzheng Tomb

From “one bowl” to “seven bowls”, Lu Tong narrated the effect and function of tea, illustrated the fresh and vivid taste of tea, and the humorous interest leaped at the sight. After “seven bowls”, there was a natural extension, which made Lu Tong finally shout out “where is Penglai immortal mountain?”, Yuchuanzi’s dream of “taking the breeze to fly there” should be the dream of all tea people. Can it be realized? That’s a suspense. It is precisely and wonderfully singing from first bowl to seventh bowl, thus sublimating the aesthetic taste of tea to a spiritual field, which also established the status of “seven bowls of tea” in Chinese tea poetry.

Sanyue Musical Performance 散乐图 – Liao Dynasty Mural of Zhang Kuangzheng Tomb

This <Seven bowls of tea 七碗茶> is the second part of the whole poem <write rapidly to Xie Mengjian for sending new tea 走笔谢孟谏议寄新茶>. Lu Tong’s poem can be divided into three parts: the material level of tea, the spiritual level of tea and the suffering scene of tea farmers. <Seven bowls of tea> talks about the spiritual level of tea.

Departure 出行图 – Liao Dynasty Mural of Zhang Shiqing Tomb

The first part describes the material level of tea, the commanding general was entrusted by Meng Jianyi to send a letter and new tea to Lu Tong, the author. The letter said that the latest Yangxian tea would be sent to the imperial palace before the Qingming Festival every year for the use of “Qingming feast” in the palace. After the best, latest and most tender tea leaves have been made and sealed, they will be delivered to the imperial palace immediately, and the rest will be enjoyed by the nobility. Then the author laments: when will the good tea and the new tea be able to reach these mountain people who plant these tea?

Whisking Tea 点茶图 – Liao Dynasty Mural of Zhang Shiqing Tomb

“The sun had risen high and I was still sleepy, when the commanding general knocked on the door and wake me up from my dream. It is said that Meng Jianyi sent him to send letters, and the package was sealed with white silk and three seals. I opened the letter as if I had seen the face of Jianyi, I checked the round tea cake wrapped in it 300 pieces. It’s said that every time in new springs when tea farmers climbed in the mountains to pick tea, the pleats insects were stirred and the spring wind began to blow. Because the emperor is waiting to taste Yangxian tea, other herbs could not dare to bloom ahead of the tea tree. When the wind blew, the tea tree seemed to have buds, it turned out to be the yellow buds grown before spring. Take off the fresh tea buds, bake them and seal them immediately. This kind of tea was very good and fine, rarely seen. Tea was not only offered to the emperor, but also to the nobility, when could it be sent to these mountain tea peoples‘ homes. I closed the brushwood gate without a vulgar guest in my room, wearing a gauze hat to fry tea for myself. The steaming heat was floating above the green tea soup continuously, the fine white tea soup foam was floating, while white lights were coagulating on the surface of tea bowl.”


Leave 出门图 – Liao Dynasty Mural of Zhang Shiqing Tomb

The third part is the suffering scene of tea farmers, it is written that “the immortals on the Penglai Mountain are in charge of the things on the land, they stand tall, stand apart from other living beings and stand away from wind and rain. Do they know that hundreds of millions of tea farmers work hard on cliffs every day, and who knows the tea farmers’ sufferings from offering tea? The author advises Meng Jianyi on behalf of these tea farmers in the Penglai paradise: when is the end of such suffering days? When can these tea farmers rest at all?”


More about: Tang Dynasty Tea Ceremony

3 thoughts on “Seven Bowls of Tea 七碗茶 – Tang Dynasty Poem by Lu Tong

  • I have always found the part I knew (= the middle part) a wonderfull poem. Knowing more about the historical context of the tea involved (first part) and the compassion and social interest of the author makes it even more endearing + makes me respect tea mire as well!!

    • Yes, only by understanding the whole poem in general can we understand the mystery of tea. In a certain way, the same is true in modern society. As the poet said, most people only know the pleasure of drinking tea, but they can’t understand the hardship of tea growers.

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