Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Lingering Note

Last month, while I was researching the meaning of the Chinese word yun (韻), I asked a Mandarin speaking tea-mentor and friend named Rob Bageant, "What is yun and how does it pertain to the taste of tea?" Mr. Bageant provided me with a wealth of great information that I would like to share with you all today.

茶 茶 茶

Here is his answer:

"Yun" 韻 by itself means many cool things. For instance as a verb it can mean to rhyme. As a noun it can mean a musical note. But in the case of tea it means "to linger" or a lingering flavor. Or, if you like a poetic sense, a lingering note. It is usually tied to the throat (喉韻) (Hou Yun). So it is the note that lingers in the throat.

Please realize that even in Taiwan people argue about whether Hui Gan (回甘) (returning sweetness) and Hou Yun (喉韻) are the same thing or not. Some people even say that, due to physiology, there can be no flavor that lingers in the throat. But geeks like that miss the point that, no matter where our sense receptors are, we nonetheless can have a perceived experience of a note or feeling lingering in our throats. It may even seem sweet to us. It reminds me of yoga and qigong. Whether or not anyone can measure qi is beside the point. If you do the practice, you will have an experience that feels like energy flowing. When you can cultivate this experience, health improves. Who cares if the experience is caused by a thing called qi or if the sensation is just the body's way of saying, "That's it, you've got it."

In any case, despite all the expert opinions on the "real" meaning of these tea terms, with the subjectivity of taste, as opposed to the more repeatable experience of vision, true agreement will always be out of reach.

茶 茶 茶

I thought that was such a great reply and I'm grateful that he gave me the thumbs up to share it on my tea blog. Xiexie Rob!

1 comment:

Alex Zorach said...

I love these words that cannot be directly translated into another language without extensive explanation.

This post reminds me of doing qi gong; the constant talk of the qi does not correspond in a well-defined way with the words that we use in English and in western science to describe the body. However, it's still a useful concept and often the clearest way to explain how to benefit the most from the motions and meditations. It's clearly describing something real; it's just that whatever it describes cannot be projected in a one-to-one way onto our western scientific notions and words in the English language.