I had been waiting for the new spring tea crop to come for a couple of months and so it was a great pleasure recently to attend an event celebrating the arrival of the new spring teas at a local tea shop. There were several teas to be sampled and a demonstration of the tea ceremony for three types of tea as well – green, wulong and pu-erh. I found it all very interesting and discovered anew how much I prefer cooked pu-erh to raw… the cooked type has a much smoother, richer sort of flavour while the raw is more astringent. There were a couple of spring wulongs from Taiwan (my favourite) to try and I took home some very high mountain Wulong from Yushan (Jade mountain) in Taiwan. Brewing it at home in my new teapot was a pleasure. It yields a subtle yet distinct flavour characteristic of Taiwan wulongs although perhaps not as fragrant as some of my very favourites. On drinking several tiny cups of this deliciousness, Max said solemnly, “I will never drink Lipton tea again.” lol
Bodhidharma, also known as DaMo in Chinese, is famous for many things. Born in India around the year 440, he converted to Buddhism and traveled to China where he is credited with introducing Zen Buddhism (called Chan in Chinese). According to tradition, he spent much time at the Shaolin Temple establishing the famed martial arts practiced there and also managing to meditate in a cave for 9 years.
During his years of meditation, he fell asleep (once!) and in his determination to keep it from happening again, he cut off his eyelids. Where his eyelids fell, the first tea plants sprang up to help him (and all the rest of us lesser mortals) stay awake while enjoying the pleasures of tea at the same time. (Well, the pleasure part isn’t mentioned in the histories.) This explains why representations of Bodhidharma always show him with bulging, lidless eyes.
Other ways of telling that a painting you’re looking at is of DaMo is that he is either crossing a river on a hollow reed (how he was said to have crossed the Yangtze), sitting in meditation in a cave and usually facing a wall, or often, with one shoe on a stick over his shoulder. The story goes that some time after DaMo’s death, an official said that he had met him in the mountains heading back west and saying that he was returning to India. He was carrying a staff on which hung a single sandal. The monks back at the temple got curious and decided to open up the tomb. They found just one sandal inside.
Much of this content is common lore regarding DaMo/Bodhidharma but a lot of information can be found in the preface to The Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma translated by Red Pine.
A friend sent me a photo of his prize amaryllis. Tom does not usually have much luck raising plants. Even saying he doesn’t have a green thumb at all is something of an understatement – which makes this gorgeous amaryllis all the more extraordinary. Actually, I just found out while googling to make sure I was spelling it right that this is not an amaryllis but a hippeastrum commonly and erroneously called amaryllis! Who knew? You’ll have to forgive me for keeping the common name in the title – if it’s what everyone uses, eventually it will be the correct one I suppose…
Anyway, I wanted to do the flower justice but felt it was lacking something on its own so I had a second try and added in Tom’s cat. I’d love to know which you prefer.