tea ceremony

tea ceremony
Japanese chadō or cha-no-yu

Ritualized preparation and drinking of tea developed in Japan.

It involves a host and one or more guests; the tea, utensils, and movements used in preparing, serving, and drinking the tea are all prescribed. When tea was introduced from Song-dynasty China by the Zen monk Eisai (1141–1215), it was drunk by Zen monks to help them stay awake during meditation. The laity enjoyed tea-tasting competitions that developed into a more refined, meditative form among the warrior aristocracy in the 15th century. The most famous exponent of the tea ceremony was Sen Rikyū (1522–91), tea master to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who codified a style known as wabi, which favoured rustic, rough-shaped tea bowls and spare, simple surroundings. Three popular schools of the tea ceremony trace their roots to Rikyū, and other schools exist as well; today mastery of the tea ceremony is one accomplishment of a well-bred young woman.

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▪ Japanese tradition
Japanese  chadō,  or  sadō (“way of tea”),  or  cha-no-yu (“hot-water tea”), 
 time-honoured institution in Japan, rooted in the principle of Zen Buddhism and founded upon the adoration of the beautiful in the daily routine of life. It is an aesthetic way of entertaining guests, in which everything is done according to an established order.

      The ceremony takes place in a tea house ( cha-shitsu), which ideally is a small structure detached from the main house but which is often simply a special room of the house. Great care is taken in the choice of materials for and construction of the cha-shitsu so as to give it a sense of rustic yet refined simplicity. The room is usually about 3 m (9 feet) square or smaller; at one end there is an alcove, called the tokonoma, in which is displayed a hanging scroll, a flower arrangement, or both. The room also contains a small sunken fireplace (ro) that is used in the winter months for heating the tea kettle; in the summer a portable brazier is used. The cha-shitsu is entered through a small, low door, which is designed to suggest humility to the guests.

      The tea ceremony consists of the host first bringing the tea utensils into the room, offering the guests special sweets, and then preparing and serving them tea made of pulverized tea leaf stirred in hot water. The prepared tea is usually thin and frothy with a mildly astringent flavour; on certain occasions a much thicker “heavy tea” (koicha) is made. The serving of sweets and tea may be preceded by a light meal. After the tea is consumed, the guests are free to inquire about the various implements, which are afterward carried from the room and the ceremony concluded.

      Ritual tea drinking, which originated in China, was first practiced in Japan during the Kamakura period (1192–1333) by Zen monks, who drank tea to keep awake during long sessions of meditation. It later became an active part of Zen ritual honouring the first patriarch, Bodhidharma (Japanese: Daruma). During the 15th century it came to be a gathering of friends in an isolated atmosphere to drink tea and discuss the aesthetic merits of paintings, calligraphy, and flower arrangements displayed in the tokonoma or quite often to discuss the merits of the tea utensils themselves.

      The most famous exponent of the tea ceremony was Sen Rikyū, an aesthete at the 16th-century court of the military dictator Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who codified the ceremony into a style known as wabi (meaning roughly “simplicity,” “quietude,” and “absence of ornament”), which still enjoys popularity in Japan. The preference of the wabi tea masters for simple, seemingly rustic objects for use in the tea ceremony led to the production of tea utensils in this style (see raku ware). Sen and other developers of the tea ceremony emphasized the following four qualities: harmony between the guests and the implements used; respect, not only among the participants but also for the utensils; cleanliness, derived from Shintō practices and requiring participants to wash their hands and rinse their mouths as symbolic gestures of cleansing before entering the cha-shitsu; and tranquillity, which is imparted through long and caring use of each article of the tea ceremony.

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Universalium. 2010.

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