Monday, July 19, 2010

Hong Beop Temple: Tea Ceremony

Sunday I went to Hong Beop Temple for their monthly cultural event for foreigners. Usually it's packed but unfortunately for the organizers, this weekend was also mudfest.  Mudfest is a blast but how many times in my life do I really need to look like this?

Don't get me wrong, it's a fabulous look. For me, I think mudfest will remain more of a once in a lifetime experience.  I do recommend the Boryeong mud soap. Counter-intuitive idea for cleansing but works wonders for the skin.

Back to the tea! First there was a lecture on Buddhist painting by Brian Barry, the first ever foreigner to join the Chogye Zen Order of Buddhism. He is actually very famous in Korea for his Buddhist painting, translating and Dharma instructing.  Though the talk was poorly organized, I learned about some of the more technical and artistic aspects that I'd been curious about. English literature in the museums tends to just explain who is who in the painting, which Bodhisattva it is and what not. However, I want to know why it is there, what the colors symbolize, and so forth.

I'm not sure what a talk on Buddhist painting had to do with a zen Buddhist tea ceremony. I would have liked a talk about the actual ceremony or history...because while the demonstration was interesting it was not entirely elucidating and neither was the handout they gave us to read at home. I suppose I'll have to research it myself one day.
The women of the Tea Group entering to perform. Apparently their hanbok (traditional Korean dress) was designed on pre-Joseon (1392-1910)* dynasty, very old. I love the simplicity of it though.
Can you spot the exit sign?
Okay the woman on the right is the host. She is the one who prepares everything for the ladies which is all very exact. Every motion (that anyone does) in this ceremony has a precise way to be executed. The woman on the left was not mentioned in my informational packet and thus I nicknamed the bitch of the party (in my head only!). I know, that is not very kind or PC but it's what popped into my head.  Her position is to get everything from the host and pour it for everyone else...a bazillion times.

We got to practice the tea ceremony...only we were forbidden from taking pictures. Which kind of made sense since every motion was specified and there was meditation in between a few of the steps.  Next they taught us how to do this super formal traditional bow that I've never actually seen anyone use but it looked cool. There was a separate (and complicated) chart explaining everything for the boys and girls. Look carefully at my eyes in these can see how bewildered I am. Just imagine how I looked whenever I took a dance class for PE credit back in the day...

Did my eyes just get wider? Why yes, yes they did. See the complicated charts peeking out from behind the announcer? The only thing that frustrated me is that for the bow part they announced the Korean first and then the English an event where the second part is advertised as Korean only and when presumably Koreans already know how to bow properly. Thus the bug eyed confusion as people responded to verbal cues I hadn't heard yet. Sometimes I understood the Korean though...and I will admit, I felt smooth. Or at least, less spastic.

Oh Alex, not quite! I did get lower but remember, I was watching to see what to do next. Thanks to A Connecticut Yankee in King Sejong's Court** for the pictures of my attempt at formal bowing.

Coming up...the Spaz goes for a run. Oh yes, a run.

*Apologies if I made any errors about the history/time period. I fact checked my dates via a Google search but we know how reliable the internet can be.
**Otherwise known as Shoesy in this post.

1 comment:

Nancy K said...

that bow looks like a yoga pose minus the robes. I can't get down that far but further than you can.