18. Lu Yu; The Tea Saint
During his lifetime Lu Yu was well known as a literary man, a well respected multi-talented person who did not care for position or status. He spent most of his time travelling, exploring, researching on tea and writing books. Lu Yu had written many books, essays and treatise that covered a vast range of subjects.
Unfortunately almost all of Lu Yu's writing were lost, many of these excellent books could only be found now mentioned in historical records, in ancient books and reviews. Historians who studied Lu Yu believed that his autobiography was also lost and the current copy of Lu Yu's autobiography is just a cloned copy reconstructed by an unknown but skilful and crafty writer. Some minor discrepancies in writing style and some questionable events and mismatch were found in the present autobiography.
Out of all the countless books that Lu Yu had written there were a total of eleven on the subject of tea and water. It's a pity that all of these books were lost and only Cha Jing survived. There was just too much attention and emphasis focused on Cha Jing and as a result all of his other books were neglected and eventually lost over the years. As time passed by less and less people remembered Lu Yu's other talents, and him as a literary man. After the Tang Dynasty he was remembered only for his contribution on tea and his Cha Jing.
During the early 80s historians and universities in the People's Republic of China conducted an in depth study on Lu Yu and concluded that Lu Yu was not just a tea man. At the end of their research and studies the team pronounced Lu Yu a poet, writer, explorer, agronomist, historian, geographer, calligrapher, playwright and actor.
The honorific title of "The Saint of Tea" never happened during Lu Yu's lifetime. It happened many years after that. In the later part of the Tang era Lu Yu's contributions and merits on tea were widely recognised. Cha Jing had proven its worth and a valuable resource to the tea industries. Only then he was bestowed as "The Tea Saint".
In 799 Lu Yu at 66 years of age, returned from Tiger Hill to his "Qingtang Bieye" home in Huzhou. Lu Yu at last settled down after 5 decades of travelling and exploring. He finally stayed put in Huzhou relaxing with tea and meditating in his "Qingtang Bieye" home. It was believed that he started on his autobiography during that time. Lu Yu enjoyed his winter of life with friends in Huzhou and passed away at age 71 in 804.
Later a never released poem was found in Lu Yu's room at his home in Huzhou. Dedicated to his foster father Zen Master Zhiji of Longgai Monastery this poem treasured much by Lu Yu was a self confession and his penitent to his foster father. It was written with grief when he got news that Master Zhiji had departed. The poem was a true revelation of his inner self and his aspiration, thus we feel it is the most befitting summary of Lu Yu, The Tea Saint.
Mountains of gold I do not require,
Jaded white cup is not my desire,
Status and rank I least aspire,
Fame and fortune I care not to acquire,
I only thirst for water from Yangtze west
Far as Jingling I wandered for to fill my quest.
Lu Yu (733-804) The Saint of Tea.
*This translated version first appeared on March 17 2005 in blog.stsite.com