The Old Tea Seller: Life and Zen Poetry in 18th Century Kyoto (Book Review)

The Old Tea Seller (book review)While writing the post about Baisao, the “old tea seller”, I learned of this book.

Because Baisao was such an interesting and influential person, I bought the book on impulse.

The author, Norman Waddell, describes Baisao’s life in detail from all of the sources that he compiled.

In the second part of the book, he translates Baisao’s many poems and writings.

One thing that struck me was that he suffered a lot because of hunger and poverty.

I had the romanticized image of Baisao as a man that has reached spiritual enlightenment, and has much pleasure drinking tea with his friends and customers. But in reality his life was a test of courage and endurance.

If you like tea, Zen and history, this book is just what you’re looking for.

Some parts felt a little slow for me, but I think that the reason is that I read it all in two long sessions.

Here’s part of a poem by Baisao:

Seventy years of Zen

got me nowhere at all


shed my black robe

became a shaggy crank,

now I have no business

with sacred or profane

just simmer tea for folks

and hold starvation back.

I bought the ebook version from Amazon. It’s a good book for my collection.

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