Category Archives: 13.The Land of Nothingness in the World of Tea -Rong-tsang Tsai

The Land of Nothingness in the World of Tea -Rong-tsang Tsai

The Land of Nothingness in the World of Tea -Rong-tsang Tsai

茶道里的无何有之乡 The Land of Nothingness in the World of Tea

蔡荣章Rong-tsang Tsai

(2003.12《茶艺》月刊社论The Editorial of “Tea Culture Monthly”)

Over the long course of history, the Way of Tea has incorporated ideas and teachings of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, among others. Once incorporated, it is hard to distinguish where these ideas have particular influence upon. At the most, we can talk about some kind of reference or do a simple comparison, under a certain situation. At this juncture, I would like to illustrate how the idea of ‘Land of Nothingness’1., brought up by the sage Chuang Tzu when he soared to beyond the cloud for a glimpse of the Universe, exists in the microcosm of a teapot and a tea cup.

I came across the phrase ‘Land of Nothingness’ while I was copying the text of ‘Chuang Tzu’. I pondered upon this: where would this fit in the domain of the Way of Tea?

The ‘water shack’2. came to my mind, as it is where water for tea brewing is prepared. Having undergone special treatment to minimize minerals, impurities and odour, the water is ‘free’ from ‘interference’ to ‘express’ its unique characteristics. Such an environment for tea brewing may be described as the ‘Land of Nothingness’.

How about displaying the phrase ‘Land of Nothingness’ at the cupboard where teapots are displayed? Indeed, good teapots can be likened to the land of nothingness when the Way of Tea is concerned. By ‘good’ teapots, I mean pots that have no off-putting odour, and are free from both toxic and non-toxic impurities. For clay and ceramic teapots, they must have a high degree of sintering 3. for fast heat dissipation 4. and low water absorption 5.. This way, tea brewing is given the space to ‘freely express’ itself without ‘interference’. Isn’t this another ‘Land of Nothingness’ for a good brew?

As I passed by the Practice Area for Tea Brewing, I saw several fellow tea drinkers concentrating in their preparation for the tea brewing masters Accreditation Examination 6. and the practical examination of the Tea Art Seminar. Without disturbing them, I pasted the writing: ‘Land of Nothingness’ on the wall. One of them took a glance of the paper, pondered upon it, and then continued to sample 7. the tea he has brewed. True, practicing brewing is all about appreciating a good cup of tea, and to experience the Way of Tea. Whether it is to get ready for the Tea brewing masters accreditation, or to sit for the practical examination of Tea Art Seminar, the process sharpens one’s ability in navigating the amazing world of tea, and in enjoying the tranquility and enrichment embodied by the Way of Tea. Any interference from an intention to outdo others or excel in the business world will turn tea brewing practice into painstaking chore. I wish this reminder of ‘Land of Nothingness’ will dispel any unnecessary ‘interference’ in the practice area.

The great eagle traverses the boundless sky which is its ‘Land of Nothingness’. The ocean provides it with food, the mountain its habitat, and the rain and storm cleanse and maintain the ecological balance of its environment. To stay free and easy in the ‘Land of Nothingness’, the giant bird must not indulge in the ocean, become lost in the dense mountainous forest and be threatened by the gale and downpour.

以下为文内之编码Coding in the text:
1.‘Land of Nothingness’「无何有之乡」
2.‘water shack’「水屋」
3. degree of sintering 烧结程度
4. heat dissipation 散热
5. water absorption 吸水率
6. Tea brewing masters Accreditation Examination 泡茶师检定考试
7. sample试饮

The aesthetics, character and the state of mind created are not to be undermined in the understanding and enjoyment of tea; and yet, they are the hardest to express. Writings on the thoughts pertaining to tea, regardless of languages used, remain scarce. We have attempted to express them in Chinese, with accompanying English translation(Translator:Katherine Yip.2010.01), to elaborate our thoughts as they are. What we want is to share the knowledge of tea alongside tea drinking. This is, in our opinion, an important contemporary task in promoting the tea culture (Coding in the text is for cross-referencing of the academic terms of tea).