Art of the Japanese Tea Ceremony

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  • Topic: Japanese tea ceremony, Tea, Zen
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Art of the Japanese Tea Ceremony

Steven Bruno

Art History

April 12, 2012

Photo of a Traditional Japanese Tea House
Okinawa, Japan
Photo of a Traditional Japanese Tea House
Okinawa, Japan
The Japanese tea ceremony was derived from the forms of the Zen Buddhist Monks during the 9th century. Shortly after being introduced by the Chinese, the serving of tea to honored guests quickly became one of the greatest status symbols of the time. The tea ceremony, known as Chado to the Japanese, literally means “the way of tea”. The ceremony involves tea, but so much more, and it is essentially to create a moment of serenity for the guests. Watching the ceremony they would see a simple and smooth performance of the Teishu, what the Japanese would call the server of the tea. However, from behind the curtain the tea ceremony is very precise in every movement, taking years of practice to master the performance. Through the valued attention to detail throughout the ceremony, the Japanese believe the guests are able to enter an intimate moment of serenity while enjoying the comfort of drinking tea. Involving both the mind and the body Zen Buddhists turned such a simple event into an elegant art, which has been a part of the Japanese culture ever since. In the beginning of the 12th century, the monk Eisai traveled to China to further study the Zen forms. He returned the first Zen master of Japan, brining with him finer quality tea seeds, which he introduced to the Zen Buddhists. Tea had been used in china for centuries so that monks could remain awake during meditation. He also returned with one of the key elements that would be used in the tea ceremony. With particular tools and technique the green tea leaves could be made into a powder, known as Matcha, which was then whisked in a bowl with hot water. This process made a finer tea then soaking the ground leaves. Buddhist monks of this time believed heavily in paying complete attention to the tasks they were currently involved in. They feared that a wondering mind leads to carelessness and carelessness leads to mistakes. They took all of their daily activities and made them into exact forms, each of which took complete focus to perform. It is because of their strong beliefs that the making of tea soon became a form in itself, incorporating Zen practices into each movement in making the tea. A few centuries later the first variation of the tea ceremony was introduced to the public of Japan, essentially to the warriors and feudal lords. Tea Room Blue Print From 1600’s

Tea Room Blue Print From 1600’s
During the late 1400’s the monk Shuko made some very important changes to the way tea was served. First he introduced the use of the nine-foot square tearoom to bring the guests close together. More importantly, he was the first to serve the tea in front of the guests, laying the foundation of the tea ceremony still used today. He also brought about the use of hand crafted ceramic bowls, instead of the porcelain introduced by the Chinese. Shoku would always hang a Zen calligraphy scroll on the wall of the tearoom, another act that is now common for the ceremony. He believed that the ceremony was supposed to be spiritual and of simple elegance rather then elaborate design. Painting of Sen no Rikyu

Tōhaku Hasegawa, born in 1539 and died in 1610
Painting of Sen no Rikyu
Tōhaku Hasegawa, born in 1539 and died in 1610
Kissaraku-ji Calligraphy Painting, August 1995
Hung on the wall of the teahouse for the Tea Ceremony
Kissaraku-ji Calligraphy Painting, August 1995
Hung on the wall of the teahouse for the Tea Ceremony
The last of the influential monks of the tea ceremony was Sen no Rikyu. Rikyu was the master who pulled all the essences of the past masters together into one ceremony with his own touches. Combining the calligraphy, flower arranging, textiles and ceramics with the Zen forms accented by the experience of the tea, created an art from unlike any other. He...
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