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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Grant

Korea's Greatest Tea Drinker

Jeong Yak-Young or as he is most commonly known, Dasan, was born in August 1762 and is considered to be one of the greatest thinkers of the late Joseon period. Born into a highly influential family of officials and magistrates Dasan (the mountain of tea) grew up receiving intense intellectual training from his father, and the many scholars that surrounded him. Throughout his life Dasan wrote many highly influential books on subjects such as philosophy, science and theories of government as well as holding significant administrative positions. It was his knowledge and objectivity that would later lead Dasan to become a close confidant of King Jeongjo.

Dasan converted to Catholicism in his early twenties and he lived a full life at the Seoul court until the sudden death of King Jeongjo when the anti-Catholic Queen Regent Jeongsun came into power. Forcing Dasan into exile, he travelled the Ganjin Road with no money or friends until he came across the small town of Gangjin. Here he was taken in by a widow who owned a small, rundown tavern, renting a small room. The years spent in the dirty, unsanitary back room of the tavern, and his poor food intake from having very little money, took a toll on Dasan's digestive health. Having befriended Hyejang, Dansan would later send a poem to Hyejang requesting tea leaves from the hill above the temple in order to relieve his pain. This poem makes it clear that Dasan already knew the medicinal value of tea and implies that he knew how to prepare the leaves for drinking.

It is during this exile that Dasan is credited with having written and influenced over 14,000 pages of work on a variety of topics. It is one such volume that holds our interest today, the Hymn in Praise of Tea by Cho-ui. Cho-ui became a close friend of Dasan's and used Dasan's incredible knowledge of tea to write this book which now provides us with the intricate details of the importance of tea in ancient Korean society.

Dasan's writings would later foster a wide spread interest in tea and its natural properties. Cho-ui, would take back to Seoul the art of preparing caked tea, introducing it to court. Several years later Cho-ui shared this tea with a number of scholars who would write many poems in celebration of this new tea and thus reignited the passion for tea culture.

Even in the 1700's tea was being recognised for both its relaxing and medicinal properties. Since then hundreds of books have been written detailing these health benefits, but it is the older texts that give us a glimpse into the ancient tea culture and its medicinal uses. Relax with your own piece of history with one of Wooree Tea's Korean Teas and enjoy it's many rewarding health benefits.


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