How to Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea: A Review of Eisai's Kissa Yojoki
Eisai (1141-1215) was a Japanese Buddhist monk who is credited with introducing Zen Buddhism and tea culture to Japan. He wrote the first Japanese book on tea, Kissa Yojoki (Record of Nourishing Life by Drinking Tea), in 1211. In this book, he extolled the health benefits of tea, especially green tea, and described how to cultivate, process, brew, and drink it. He also discussed the history and origin of tea, its medicinal properties, and its spiritual significance.
In this article, we will review the main contents and themes of Kissa Yojoki, and explore how Eisai's book influenced the development of Japanese tea culture and Zen Buddhism. We will also examine some of the sources and references that Eisai used in his book, such as Chinese texts on tea, Buddhist scriptures, and biographies of the Buddha.
The First Fascicle: The Benefits of Tea
The first fascicle of Kissa Yojoki consists of four chapters. The first chapter introduces the origin and history of tea, tracing it back to Shen Nong, the legendary Chinese emperor who discovered tea as a medicine. Eisai also mentions Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism, who used tea to stay awake during his meditation. He then cites various Chinese texts on tea, such as Cha Jing (The Classic of Tea) by Lu Yu, Cha Pu (The Tea Manual) by Zhang Yi, and Cha Lun (The Treatise on Tea) by Cai Xiang. He also quotes from medical books, such as Ben Cao Gang Mu (Compendium of Materia Medica) by Li Shizhen, and Ben Cao Tu Jing (Illustrated Pharmacopoeia) by Su Song.
The second chapter describes the health benefits of tea, such as enhancing digestion, detoxifying the body, refreshing the mind, prolonging life, preventing diseases, and curing various ailments. Eisai claims that tea can cure headaches, eye problems, indigestion, fatigue, thirst, fever, colds, coughs, asthma, diarrhea, dysentery, boils, ulcers, tumors, and even poisoning. He also says that tea can improve mental clarity, memory, concentration, alertness, and wisdom. He supports his claims with anecdotes and testimonies from Chinese and Japanese monks and laypeople who drank tea regularly.
The third chapter explains how to cultivate and process tea leaves. Eisai describes the different types of tea plants, such as wild tea (yecha), garden tea (yuancha), tribute tea (gongcha), and temple tea (sicha). He also distinguishes between different grades of tea leaves based on their size and quality. He then gives detailed instructions on how to pick, steam, dry, roast,
and grind tea leaves into powder. He also advises on how to store and preserve tea leaves properly.
The fourth chapter instructs how to brew and drink tea. Eisai recommends using spring water or well water for boiling tea. He also suggests using a ceramic kettle and a bamboo whisk for preparing tea. He then describes how to measure the amount of tea powder and water according to the season and the occasion. He also explains how to adjust the temperature and duration of boiling water depending on the type and grade of tea leaves. He then demonstrates how to whisk the tea into a frothy liquid and how to drink it with respect and gratitude.
The Second Fascicle: The Efficacy of Mulberry
The second fascicle of Kissa Yojoki consists of two chapters. The first chapter discusses the origin and history of mulberry trees (kuwa), which are closely related to tea plants. Eisai claims that mulberry trees were originally brought from India to China by Buddhist monks who used them for making robes. He then cites various Chinese texts on mulberry trees,
such as Kuwa Pu (The Mulberry Manual) by Wang Zhenyi, Kuwa Lun (The Treatise on Mulberry) by Li Shouzhen,
and Kuwa Ben Cao (The Pharmacopoeia of Mulberry) by Zhang Congzheng.
The second chapter describes the medicinal benefits of mulberry leaves,
Eisai argues that mulberry can ward off evil spirits and disease demons that cause illness and misfortune. 248dff8e21