Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Gong Fu of Tea

A friend sent me this. It's from the monthly newsletter of Teance, an up and coming tea company. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article. I've excerpted a portion below.

The term gong fu applies not only to martial arts, but to any activity where a skill developed over time. Wu Wei is a Daoist term which can be loosely translated as "without effort."

What do these two things have to do with tea? Read below, or better yet, click on the title of this post.

The term 'Gong Fu' may be more familiar than it sounds - generally it is associated with martial arts; it is more commonly spelled as 'Kung Fu'. Translating from Chinese as 'great skill and effort,' Gong Fu is required in both martial arts and tea - the practice of one reflected in the other - and is embraced as one of the founding principles here at Teance.

Though the practice of martial arts is fast and furious, in the beginning, minute attention is paid to practicing correct form. The art and the practitioner become inseparable, and every action is then executed effortlessly and expertly. The practitioner can now freely respond to circumstance and spontaneously express his intentions.

Like martial arts, the Gong Fu of tea also requires much practice, skill, and effort - and some very good tea leaves, ideally. But to truly achieve Gong Fu tea, the Taoist idea of 'Wu Wei' must also be applied: doing without doing. With Wu Wei, one is so good that the action seems completely effortless; others should not notice all the meticulous attention that took place to make that perfect cup.

Why is the Taoist idea of Wu Wei necessary in Gong Fu tea? Here we break from martial arts: The spiritual practice of mindfulness, concentration, and deliberate intention through tea is ultimately used in the service of others. The guest should be moved by his experience without imposition; the generosity and spirit of sharing one's best effort should be felt without display. The guest should experience, wordlessly, the years of artful practice that brought to life the leaf as intended by the tea masters' equally skillful crafting, somewhere far away in the mountains of Asia.

To achieve Wu Wei, Gong Fu is required of our staff at Teance and is applied in every aspect of their training. They begin by learning the height and speed of the pour, how to turn the wrist for efficiency, and how to arrange the tasting cups. They learn all of the formal presentation steps designed not for show, but to produce the best cup of tea possible. They learn to recognize the temperature of the water by feel, to observe the passage of time intuitively, to know the portioning and steeping specifics of each tea.


Anonymous said...

you might find this link useful.

Rick Matz said...

Thanks for the link. You have some insightful stuff on your blog.