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Lu Yu; the Saint of Tea and Cha Jing

16. Lu Yu the name

It was said that Lu Yu's name was obtained from Yi Jing the ancient Chinese "Book of Change". Even though we are not onto Yi Jing but it won't hurt to just take a simple analysis of the Chinese characters that formed his name. It can be an interesting exercise and eye opener if we just take a peek with an open mind.

Normally people inherit their surname from their forefathers but nobody knew who was Lu Yu's forefather so his surname Lu came from Yi Jing as well. The Chinese character Lu means land or earthy and Yu is feather. In Chinese Yu or feather signifies something "light in weight" or "low in value". In a different context Yu also represent "a winged person" or "an immortal" in Chinese. Thus the name Lu Yu means "a feather on land". It can also mean someone who is not rich or wealthy, as well as interpreted as "an earthy holy person".

Chinese brush painting of Hong or Swan Goose

Lu Yu's official name is Lu Hongjian also said to be obtained from Yi Jing. The Chinese character "Hong" here means a swan goose and Hong also relates to Yu as Yu, the feather comes from Hong the swan goose. The Chinese character "Jian" means gentle, slow or gradual. In Chinese a swan goose or an eagle both signifies an able and ambitious person someone who takes upon "the sky as the limit". Eagles are often applied to heroes and warriors while swan goose is for the man of letters, artist and the gentlemen type. So what is in the name Lu Hongjian and Lu Yu? We can say it means a gentleman or a man of letters who is out of the ordinary, not wealthy but able, ambitious and loves freedom like a swan goose where only the sky is the limit.

From our story so far this over simplified interpretation or "reversed engineering" of Lu Yu's name obtained from Yi Jing conforms quite closely to his character. Lu Yu cherished freedom, to be able do what he wished and wanted, he loved nature and upheld righteousness and justice. Lu Yu disliked rules and regulations and did not give in to restrictions, not even the restrictions of the imperial court should limit him. Lu Yu was a free swan goose on land and he wished to be remain free!