A highly structured method of preparing powdered green tea in the company of guests. The tea ceremony incorporates the preparation and service of food as well as the study and utilization of architecture, gardening, ceramics, calligraphy, history, and religion. It is the culmination of a union of artistic creativity, sensitivity to nature, religious thought, and social interchange.
According to tradition, Bodhidharma, who left India and introduced Zen (Ch: Chan or Ch'an) Buddhism to China in 520, encouraged the custom of tea drinking for alertness during meditation. In Buddhist temples during the Tang (T'ang) dynasty (618−907), a ritual was performed using tea in brick form. This was ground to a powder, mixed in a kettle with hot water, and ladled into ceramic bowls.
Buddhism was brought to Japan sometime in the first half of the 6th century. During the Nara period (710−794), the influence of Chinese culture included the introduction of tea in conjunction with Buddhist meditation. Early in the Kamakura period (1185−1333), the Japanese priest
In the early 13th century, the priest
In Sakai, south of Ōsaka, there was a group of wealthy merchants called the nayashū (“warehouse school”), which espoused a modest manner of tea drinking. Out of this tradition came Takeno Jōō (1502−55), who taught the use of the daisu (the stand for the tea utensils), as it had been handed down from Shukō, as well as a sensitive connoisseurship and the aesthetic sensibility known as
Rikyū transformed the tea ceremony, perfected the use of the daisu, and substituted common Japanese objects for the rare and expensive Chinese tea utensils used previously. Tea was no longer made in one room and served to guests in another, but rather was made in their midst, in emulation of Shukō's method. Many people began to practice the tea ceremony following the precepts and example of Rikyū.
There were many masters of tea, with heirs and followers who eventually gathered into schools that served either the aristocracy or the commoners. Rikyū's way was passed to his grandson Sōtan (1578−1658), who was renowned for his humility and sensitivity. In turn, each of Sōtan's sons headed his own school:
The manner of preparing powdered green tea may be influenced by many styles and techniques, depending on the practices of the various schools. The following procedure is adapted from the Ura Senke way of preparation. A full tea presentation with a meal is called a chaji, while the actual making of the tea is called temae. A simple gathering for the service of tea may be called a chakai. The selection of utensils (dōgu) is determined by time of year, season, and time of day or night, as well as special occasions such as welcoming someone, bidding farewell, a memorial, a wedding, flower viewing, and so on.
The tea is prepared in a specially designated and designed room, the chashitsu. It is devoid of decoration with the exceptions of a hanging scroll (kakemono) and flowers in a vase (hanaire). The scroll, inspired by Buddhist thought, provides the appropriate spiritual atmosphere for serving tea. The Buddhist writing, usually by a recognized master, is called bokuseki (“ink traces”). Flowers for tea (chabana) are simple, seasonal, and seemingly “unarranged,” unlike those in ikebana. See
The following are some of the highlights of a chaji: The guests, ideally four, assemble in a machiai (waiting room) and are served sayu (“white” hot water) by the host's assistant, the hantō, in order to sample the water used in making tea. The guests enter the roji (“dew ground”), a water-sprinkled garden path devoid of flowers, in which the guests rid themselves of the “dust” of the world. They take seats at the koshikake machiai (waiting bench), anticipating the approach of the host, who is called teishu (house master).
The host replenishes the water in the stone basin set in a low arrangement of stones called tsukubai (literally, “to crouch”). The host purifies his hands and mouth and proceeds through the ch$#363;mon (middle gate) to welcome the guests with a silent bow. This gate separates the mundane world from the spiritual world of tea. The guests purify their hands and mouths and enter the tearoom by crawling through the small door, or nijiriguchi, which the last guest latches. Individually they look at the scroll in the tokonoma (alcove), the kettle, and the hearth and take their seats.
Prior to the guests' entry, the kettle of water (kama) is placed in the room on a portable hearth (furo) with a charcoal fire. In winter a ro, a hearth set into the floor, replaces the furo to provide warmth. The host greets the guests. A charcoal fire to heat the water is built in the presence of the guests; this presentation (sumi-demae) is performed after the meal in the furo season and before the meal in the ro season. Incense, held in a kōgō (incense container), is put into the fire; sandalwood (byakudan) is used in the furo, kneaded incense (nerikō) in the ro.
The host serves the tea meal, which is called kaiseki or chakaiseki (the name derives from that of a warmed stone that Buddhist monks placed in the front fold of their garments to ward off hunger pangs). The foods are fresh, seasonal, and carefully prepared without decoration. Each guest is served a tray set with three courses: gohan (cooked white rice) and misoshiru (soup flavored with fermented bean paste), served in covered lacquered bowls, and mukōzuke (“opposite place”), plain or vinegared raw fish or vinegared vegetables served in a ceramic dish and placed on the far side of the tray. New hashi (chopsticks) of cedar are used.
Sake is served in an iron pitcher (kannabe) and drunk from lacquered wooden saucers called hikihai. Nimono (foods simmered in broth) are served in separate, covered lacquered bowls. Yakimono (grilled foods) are served in individual portions on ceramic plates. All the serving chopsticks are of freshly cut green bamboo. Additional rice and soup are offered. The host may join the guests. The palate is cleared with a simple light broth, kosuimono, served in covered lacquered cups, which is used to rinse the chopsticks. This rinsing, or hashiarai, names the course.
Hassun is the name of the next course, which is inspired by Shintō reverence for nature. Hassun (8 sun; about 24.1 cm or 9.5 in) is also the length of the plain wood tray that is used to serve morsels of uminomono (seafood) and yamanomono (mountain food), representing the abundance of sea and land. During this course the host, who has been serving the guests, eats and is served sake by each guest; the role of server is considered a higher position. Kōnomono (“fragrant things”), pickled vegetables, are served in a small ceramic bowl, and browned rice, representing the last of the rice, is served in salted water in a lacquered pitcher (yutō). Guests clean their own utensils with soft paper (
Alone, the host removes the scroll and replaces it with flowers, sweeps the room, and sets out utensils for preparing koicha (thick tea), which is the focal point of the gathering. The mizusashi, a jar filled with fresh water, is displayed; the water represents the yin to complement the fire in the hearth, which is yang. The chaire, a small ceramic jar containing the powdered tea, covered by a fine silk bag (shifuku), is set in front of the water jar. An appropriate tana, or stand, on which to display the tea utensils is chosen for the occasion. A gong (dora) is struck to summon the guests during the day; at night a small bell (kanshō) is rung. The guests once again purify their hands and mouth at the tsukubai and reenter, look at the flowers and displayed utensils, and latch the door.
The host enters with the chawan (teabowl), which holds the chakin (tea cloth), a bleached white linen cloth used to dry the bowl; chasen (tea whisk); and chashaku (tea scoop), a slender bamboo scoop used to dispense the tea powder. The chashaku often bears a poetic name. These are set next to the tea jar, which represents the sun (symbolic of yang); the bowl represents the moon (symbolic of yin). The host brings in the kensui, a waste-water bowl; the hishaku, a bamboo water ladle; and the futaoki, a rest for the kettle lid made of green bamboo, and closes the sadōguchi (tea way entrance). The host uses a fukusa, a silk cloth representing the host's spirit, to purify the tea container and scoop; examining, folding, and handling the fukusa deepen the host's concentration and meditation. Hot water is ladled into the bowl to warm it; the whisk is examined and rinsed. The emptied bowl is dried with the linen cloth. Three scoops of tea in increasing amounts are put into the bowl; then the tea jar is emptied into the bowl. Hot water is ladled into the bowl, sufficient to form a thin paste when kneaded with the whisk. A little more water is added to bring it to a drinkable consistency. The bowl is offered to the guests.
The first guest takes the bowl, drinks, and passes it to the others. The preferred wares for the teabowl are
The fire may be rebuilt in anticipation of serving usucha (thin tea), which helps to rinse the palate and to prepare the guests psychologically for their return to the mundane world. Smoking articles−a hiire (fire receptacle), a ceramic cup with a lighted piece of charcoal set in a bed of ash; a haifuki (ash blow), a length of green bamboo containing water to extinguish the ash; and a kiseru (pipe)−are offered on a tabakobon (tobacco tray). Since one rarely smokes in the tearoom, the tray is presented as a sign for relaxation. Zabuton (cushions) and teaburi (hand warmers) may be offered. Higashi (dry sweets) are served on a wooden tray to complement the bitterness of the thin tea. Thin tea is prepared in a way similar to that of thick tea, except that less tea powder, of a lesser quality, is used, and it is dispensed from a natsume, a date-shaped lacquered wooden container; the bowl has a more casual or decorative character; and the guests are served individually prepared bowls of frothy, light tea. At the conclusion, the guests thank the host and leave; the host watches their departure from the open door of the tearoom.
The Japanese tea ceremony, a social act founded on reverence for all life and all things, is enacted in an idealized environment to create a perfect life. Its quiet atmosphere of harmony and respect for people and objects, with attention to cleanliness and order, strives to bring peace to body and spirit.
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