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Topic: "Song of Seven Cups" by Lú Tóng

Lú Tóng was the secondary sage of tea, after Lù Yǔ, the primary sage of tea. This is one of the most famous tea poems ever, and the "Song of Seven Cups" is about one quarter to a third of the entire poem "Taking Up the Pen to Thank Mèng Jiànyì for Sending New Tea." I suppose the name of the tea vendor Seven Cups comes from this poem. If anyone knows of any extant English translations, I'd love to compare. Also please leave comments on how the translation could be bettered. I did not use any work in English, but did refer to some explanatory notes from the two Chinese sources listed below.
http://huaib.com/rensheng/7485.html
http://www.7139.com/eduyw/zd/ds/200703/29890.html

"Song of Seven Cups" from the poem: "Taking Up the Pen to Thank Mèng Jiànyì for Sending New Tea"
by Lú Tóng of the Táng Dynasty

One bowl moistens the lips and throat;
Two bowls shatters loneliness and melancholy;
Three bowls, thinking hard, one produces five thousand volumes;
Four bowls, lightly sweating, the iniquities of a lifetime disperse towards the pores.
Five bowls cleanses muscles and tendons;
Six bowls accesses the realm of spirit;
One cannot finish the seventh bowl, but feels only a light breeze spring up under the arms.

《走笔谢孟谏议寄新茶》《七碗茶歌》唐 卢仝
zǒubǐ xiè Mèng Jiànyì jìxīnchá -- qīwǎnchágē Táng Lú Tóng
一碗喉吻润
yīwǎn hóuwěn rùn
二碗破孤闷
èrwǎn pò gūmèn
三碗搜枯肠,惟有文字五千卷
sānwǎn sōu kūcháng,wéiyǒu wénzì wǔqiānjuàn
四碗发轻汗,平生不平事尽向毛孔散
sìwǎn fā qīnghàn, píngshēng bùpíngshì jìnxiǎng máokǒng sàn
五碗肌骨清
wǔwǎn jīgǔ qīng
六碗通仙灵
liùwǎn tōng xiānlíng
七碗吃不得也,唯觉两腋习习清风生
qīwǎn chībùdéyě, wéijué liǎngyè xíxiqīngfēng shēng

红焙浅瓯新火活,龙团小碾斗晴窗

2 (edited by ABx 2008-11-07 18:26:26)

Re: "Song of Seven Cups" by Lú Tóng

I love this poem :)

I have found several translations throughout the internet. I took from a couple of them to put together what I thought created the best poetic flow (keep in mind that I'm working only with other's translations):

The first cup caresses my dry lips and throat,
The second shatters the walls of my loneliness,
The third explores the dry rivulets of my soul
Searching for legends of five thousand scrolls.
With the fourth the pain of past injustice vanishes through my pores.
The fifth purifies my flesh and bone.
With the sixth I commune with the immortals.
The seventh conveys such pleasure I am overcome.
The fresh wind blows through my wings
As I make my way to Penglai.


I had never actually seen specific mention of the seventh bowl, but that actually makes more sense of the last line.

I have to say that I do wonder what tea he's drinking :)


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Re: "Song of Seven Cups" by Lú Tóng

What a great poem! Thanks a lot for making one of your own.

Besides occasional quibbles over faithfulness to the original, your version reads very nicely. I know its other people's translations, so sorry if I seem pedantic.

The last line is a little bit problematic. Number one, he never actually drinks the seventh bowl, perhaps the transcendence contained therein is beyond even some who have communed with the world of the spirits.

This wind that he feels blowing up under his arms takes him to the isle of Penglai at the end of the next line, which is not included in the version I translated. I wonder why in the popular version they cut it off with the breeze springing up without the conclusion of it bringing him to Penglai.

ABx wrote:

I have to say that I do wonder what tea he's drinking :)

I think my tea vendor sold out of this stuff. It sure sounds good though

红焙浅瓯新火活,龙团小碾斗晴窗

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Re: "Song of Seven Cups" by Lú Tóng

Lotung, a Tang poet, wrote
"The first cup moistens my lips and throat,
the second cup breaks my loneliness,
the third cup searches my barren entrail but to find therein some five thousand volumes of odd ideographs.-
The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration, all the wrong of life passes away through my pores.
At the fifth cup I am purified;
the sixth cup calls me to the realms of immortals.
The seventh cup ah, but I could take no more!
I only feel the breath of cool wind that rises in my sleeves.
Where is Horaisan?* Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither."

*The Chinese Elysium.

By Kakuzo Okakura from his Book of Tea
http://www.archive.org/details/bookoftea00okakrich

红焙浅瓯新火活,龙团小碾斗晴窗

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Re: "Song of Seven Cups" by Lú Tóng

Did you all come across this one? I came across it randomly just now. The site itself seems pretty interesting, though the name (Miss Netty's Tea Blog) doesn't quite seem to fit the theme... I keep imagining an old British lady or something.

http://www.leavesofjade.com/index.php/t … ls_of_tea/


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Re: "Song of Seven Cups" by Lú Tóng

That is a really gpod weblog.

I still have two issues with her translation which are he does not finish the seventh cup, and in the third line the guts, or bowels especially at that time in China were an area of creative thought, which of course she does mention.  I understand this third line to be that the tea acts on the writer's 'mind' as rain in the desert, allowing him to produce 5000 volumes of writing. I base this on no authority at all, however, and would be obliged to anyone who offered a cogent argument to the contrary.

Also in the shortened version of this poem called the "song of seven bowls of tea" Penglai is never mentioned in the Chinese, it always ends with the bit about the breeze carrying him off. This may be a sort of literary elitism, you are supposed to know the rest of the poem, and if you ask about its apparently abrupt ending, you are ignorant.
http://www.teaw.com/tea/pic/7tea.jpg

红焙浅瓯新火活,龙团小碾斗晴窗

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7 (edited by ABx 2008-11-09 21:05:19)

Re: "Song of Seven Cups" by Lú Tóng

LaoChaGui wrote:

What a great poem! Thanks a lot for making one of your own.

Besides occasional quibbles over faithfulness to the original, your version reads very nicely. I know its other people's translations, so sorry if I seem pedantic.

The last line is a little bit problematic. Number one, he never actually drinks the seventh bowl, perhaps the transcendence contained therein is beyond even some who have communed with the world of the spirits.

This wind that he feels blowing up under his arms takes him to the isle of Penglai at the end of the next line, which is not included in the version I translated. I wonder why in the popular version they cut it off with the breeze springing up without the conclusion of it bringing him to Penglai.

ABx wrote:

I have to say that I do wonder what tea he's drinking :)

I think my tea vendor sold out of this stuff. It sure sounds good though

Thanks :) Each of the translations seemed to have one or two great lines, with the rest being a bit akward, so they just seemed to fit together really well.

The seventh is a bit tricky. It would be hard to put it together so that it's as poetic in English as I'm sure it is in Chinese. Perhaps something like "The seventh cannot be finished, for I am overcome - I feel a breeze under my arms, as wings that carry me off to the isle of Penglai..."

I also really like your translation to "the realm of spirit." I know that this state carries a lot of associations to ancestory and the enlightened among those traditions, but I think that "realm of the spirit" is probably the closest that we can come to understand it from a western perspective.


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Re: "Song of Seven Cups" by Lú Tóng

LaoChaGui wrote:

This may be a sort of literary elitism, you are supposed to know the rest of the poem, and if you ask about its apparently abrupt ending, you are ignorant.
http://www.teaw.com/tea/pic/7tea.jpg

Hehe, did this come about after they came into contact with the French? :X


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Re: "Song of Seven Cups" by Lú Tóng

I still have two issues with her translation which are he does not finish the seventh cup, and in the third line the guts, or bowels especially at that time in China were an area of creative thought, which of course she does mention.  I understand this third line to be that the tea acts on the writer's 'mind' as rain in the desert, allowing him to produce 5000 volumes of writing

I think that's the real problem with translating poetry. Poetry condenses words heavily by binding them with associations. So to someone that doesn't have those associations, the poem loses a lot of depth.


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10 (edited by william 2008-11-21 00:32:35)

Re: "Song of Seven Cups" by Lú Tóng

Read this with my Mandarin tutor today... he found the poem a lot more pleasant to work with than the usual "No, I don't have a dog. Do you have a boyfriend?" dialogs in our book. I printed out 3 different translations along with it, and it was fun to compare them.

He had a couple points; I solicited some help from my friend Sharon who was patient enough to look some things up and provide some of her own comments....

* The "light breeze spring up under the arms" line (last line) apparently does imply something specific in Chinese literature, so I don't know if it's exactly elitism... maybe it's implied even without the direct reference to 蓬莱山. My other friend said she wouldn't necessarily know it was referring to Penglai, but that she would know that line implies something like that. Her exact comments "i would know it implies that he felt that he could fly, meaning he's becoming a 仙". I wasn't familiar with Penglai Shan before this thread...
I did quickly read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penglai_Mountain, though

* I don't know if the use of "tendon" for 骨 is poetic, but he seemed to think that "bone" was a better translation. Maybe "flesh and bone" sounds more poetic in English than "muscle and ....", if only because it sounds similar to "flesh and blood". My other friend says that "bone" is the meaning also. Her additional comments: "it means the flesh and bones feel lighter, but it can also imply that the mind feels clearer [...]oh the mind feels clearer.. hmm it's more like.. not that you've reached spiritual enlightment, but getting closer". She suggested something along the lines of "purified, both body and soul", which has a nice sound to it.

* (second cup) He translated 孤闷 together as "loneliness", though said that 闷 implied boredom. My friend described it as "being lonely and depressed" without even seeing any of the English translation, so I think that one is probably correct.

* We talked a little about how translating 仙 to English is difficult, because there's not really a similar concept. He said that Greek gods or something were the most similar thing in western mythology.


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11 (edited by LaoChaGui 2008-12-03 12:08:47)

Re: "Song of Seven Cups" by Lú Tóng

william wrote:

* The "light breeze spring up under the arms" line (last line) apparently does imply something specific in Chinese literature, so I don't know if it's exactly elitism... maybe it's implied even without the direct reference to 蓬莱山.

It most likely means something in Chinese literature because of this poem. It's implied without direct reference to Penglai as a result of this poem's fame. You don't have to consider it elitism, it could be compared to English speakers saying "When in Rome..." The second half, "Do as the Romans do" is implied and can be left out. Saying literary elitism is hyperbole, but historically the literate classes had to know a lot of literary allusions, and there was no easy way to look things up.

william wrote:

* I don't know if the use of "tendon" for 骨 is poetic, but he seemed to think that "bone" was a better translation.

Exactly right. 骨 gu is bone. 肌 is muscle or flesh. I should have written flesh and bones.

红焙浅瓯新火活,龙团小碾斗晴窗