Duration: until the end of september 2017
As early as the 4th century, Chinese Taoists were already using the leaves of the tea plant for the ceremonial preparation of beverages in their search for immortality. In the year 801, a Japanese monk brought tea seeds from China, which were then sown south of Kyoto. From the year 1191, Eisai the monk, who passed on the refined tea-making traditions of the Sung farm, was responsible for spreading throughout Japan the idea of refining the tea-making process by pulverizing the tea leaves. Initially, tea-drinking on farms and by the samurai was for the purposes of entertainment. In monasteries, thanks to its energising effect, green tea was used to stimulate the circulation during sustained meditation.
While in more elevated social circles tea was initially served in tea rooms, over time its preparation and serving became increasingly ritualised and moved to smaller spaces. This later gave rise to the detached teahouse, which usually formed part of the garden.
The further development of the tea ceremony culminated in the 16th century, when it was taken over by the tea master Sen no Rikyū (1521 -1591) in the so-called Way of Tea (chadō). The main objective of this Way is to carry out the ceremony in a quiet atmosphere as a type of contemplative art, surrounded by a reduction to elegant simplicity. Embedded in this idea is the goal of transforming life into a work of art through the philosophy of pared-down aesthetics. For Sen no Rikyū, the Way of Tea is based on the four basic principles of:
Harmony is not only reflected in the design of the teahouse and tea garden, but also in the co-ordination of the tea-making implements, the attunement to the seasons, and last but not least the relationship between guest and host.
„kei” – reverence, respect
Respect and consideration determine both the behaviour of the participants in a tea ceremony towards each other, and their interaction with the tea-making implements and the environment.
Both the actual physical cleanliness and order of the teahouse and tea garden, as well as the symbolic cleansing of the guests and host, are intended to strengthen mindfulness and clean the participants’ hearts of the “dust of everyday life”.
„jaku“ – silence
The outer silence of the teahouse goes hand-inhand with the participants’ inner contemplation. In this atmosphere, the worries of everyday life fall away, and a mood of peace and serenity unfolds.
If these fundamental principles are applied to the Taoist Buddhist doctrine, “wa” stands for the connectedness of mankind and all living things in Buddhism, “kei” stands for the selfcontrol to respect all beings, “sei” represents the inner purity required to dive from the transient world into the world of tea, and “jaku” the solitary detachment, the immersion into nothingness as the dissolution of space and time.
Zen Buddhism provides tea masters with a framework within which they can unfold the Way of Tea and the associated aesthetics of imperfection and simplicity. By “entering” a tea room according to Sen no Rikyū’s requirements, each guest must move through the small opening which provides the only access. Regardless of social standing, everyone must subordinate themselves to the tea room. „Everyone who enters must bend their head, as if looking at their feet, and push the door aside. Just as all must leave their mother’s body, at the moment of entering the tea room, all must return to their true nature, like a new-born baby.” (Rikyū)
Despite the austerity and formality, the tea master gives the guests enough space to amuse themselves, and devote themselves to the details of the teahouse in silence and meditation. The charcoal ceremony precedes the actual tea ceremony. Water in a castiron kettle is heated over a hearth. Pieces of metal placed in the kettle add an acoustic element to the process. At the same time, incense is burned. The incense is taken from lacquer boxes and placed in special metal or ceramic incense containers. At the beginning of the actual tea ceremony, the tea bowl and the caddy containing the powdered tea are removed from their respective wooden box and cloth bag. The tea bowl is rinsed with hot water and dried with a cloth. Guests are served sweets to enhance the flavour of the powdered tea.
With a small teascoop, usually made of bamboo, the tea master takes some tea powder from the ceramic caddy and places it into the tea bowl. Water is taken from the kettle using a bamboo ladle and poured over the tea powder. A small bamboo whisk is used to whisk the tea until foam is formed in the middle of the bowl.
The tea is now served to the guests. The bowl is always turned before being given to a guest. There are many variations of the ritual for turning the tea bowl. In the Urasenke school of tea-making, as a form of homage the host offers the bowl to the guest with the most beautiful side of the bowl facing the guest. The guest then turns the bowl a little so as not to touch the most beautiful side of the bowl with their mouth. This shows the guests’ deference to their host, and their respect for the tea bowl. Finally, the bowl is cleaned and filled with a thinner tea, which in turn is served to the guests. The host or tea master does not drink tea, merely prepares it. After drinking their tea, guests talk amongst themselves in a relaxed mood before leaving the room.