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Lu Yu; the Saint of Tea and Cha Jing

15. Lu Yu the man

During his boyhood days the young Lu Yu opposed his foster father Master Zhiji and now as an adult he rejected the emperors' offers. On the surface Lu Yu looked like a rebellious character and a person who disregarded the authority. In reality that was never Lu Yu's intention.

A monk in orange kasaya

His going against Master Zhiji might look like his refusal to practise Buddhism. On the contrary Lu Yu practiced Buddhism on his own as was mentioned in his autobiography. Lu Yu spent a lot of his time living in monasteries and had many friends who were Buddhist monks. Lu Yu never married, a vegetarian, never drink any alcoholic beverage and lived like a monk, his behaviours, conducts and characters were also very much like one. In fact many of Lu Yu's friends and writers referred him as "a Buddhist monk who didn't wear the Kasaya". Kasaya is the outer robe worn by Buddhist monks, usually orange or brown in colour.

Lu Yu had no desire for fame and glory, or wealth and power. He loved nature and tea, most of all travelling and living like a free man. This was the main reason he turned down the appointment from the imperial court. If going against the emperors was his intention he would have become a headless soul and not a tea deity now. During the An Lushan Rebellion Lu Yu had written poems that supported the Tang imperial army spiritually and ultimately said to have boosted the army's morale in fighting against the rebels. His commemorative tea stove cast after the civil war was also a demonstration of his patriotism to the Tang Imperial Court.

Lu Yu did not care much about outlook or grooming and often dressed sloppishly. Once Imperial Envoy Li Jiqing was on official visit to Huzhou and his deputy informed him about Lu Yu the well-known tea master in the area who brewed great tea. He suggested to Li that since they were there Li Jiqing should call Lu Yu to his official residence to demonstrate his tea skill and serve them tea.

When Lu Yu received the call-in to brew tea for imperial envoy he packed his tea equipage and dressed in his usual manner and headed towards the official residence of Li Jiqing.

Lu Yu

When Lu Yu arrived Imperial Envoy Li Jiqing was not happy with the way Lu Yu dressed, because he thought Lu Yu was rude to come to the imperial envoy's official residence unprepared. Li told his deputy this "wild head and unruly brain" couldn't do any good and felt Lu Yu had a bad altitude towards an imperial envoy.

Lu Yu careless of what was going on and just got on with his tea demonstration. When the tea was ready to be served Li Jiqing did not bother to taste the tea. He treated Lu Yu like a tea house servant and told his deputy to pay Lu Yu for his services and send him off. Lu Yu left feeling ashamed and insulted. When he returned home he composed an essay titled "The commentary on ruining good tea"!

Li Jiqing was holding the post of imperial envoy during Emperor Tang Daizong's reign therefore this happened before Cha Jing was released. It was learned that Li Jiqing and Lu Yu met again soon after their first encounter. In the subsequent meeting Li seemed to understand Lu Yu better and regarded Lu Yu differently and they both became friends!