茶の道【The Way of Tea】

The Japanese “Way of Tea” was developed over many years, and by many different people, beginning in the Nara Era (710-794), with the entry of Chinese culture into Japan. Many very famous tea masters existed, but the one most famous was Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591).


His teacher was the great master, Takeno Joo (1502-1555), who taught him the ancient use of the tea utensil stand (daisu), and the spirit of Wabi and Sabi. (Please refer to Tidbits, on the Customs and Culture of Japan.)


One of the previous great masters, Murata Shuko (1422- 1502), served tea in the Chinese tradition, using one room for the preparation of the tea, and serving it to the guests in an adjacent room called Dojinsai. This room was four and a half tatami mats in size, and became the standard for tea rooms, even though other sizes presently exist. It was said to have been the size of the room of an Indian Buddhist teacher named, Yuima, who lived 100 years after Buddha.


Sen no Rikyu is given the credit for perfecting the tea ceremony in the Japanese way. This great advance took place at the end of the 16th century.


Prior to the Edo Period (1600-1868), tea drinking had been reserved only for the priesthood and the ruling class. Sen no Rikyu’s contribution to the Way of Tea was to use traditional, everyday objects, as well as valuable Chinese utensils, in serv- ing tea. He also began the custom of making tea and serving it in the same room in which the guests were sitting. He angered his lord and was told to kill himself. Later, the lord forgave him, but Sen no Rikyu told him to stick by his word, and killed him-self. It will take a long time for us to understand the old ways?


The changes in the Way of Tea caused a great increase in its popularity due to the difference in cost between valuable imported items, and plain objects, made in Japan.


It also caused a boom in the advancement of the traditional arts of the country. Native artists began creating utensils for the formal Tea Ceremony. Of course, these items bore the earmarks of the Chinese and Korean cultures, since their designs had originated in those countries.


In recent times, more latitude is allowed in the use of utensils for the Way of Tea, and many artists have become fa- mous for their work.


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