Japanese tea ceremony.
The quintessence of ancient traditions.
The simple task of making tea for guests in Japan has been elevated to the rank of art. It became a ritual, a complex sequence of actions performed in strict order. The correctness of the execution is very important and is meticulously evaluated.
The tea ceremony — or “the way of tea”, if translated literally — is a special culture that embodies the concept of “omotenashi” – sincere care for the guest.
In Japanese, the tea ceremony is called “chanoyu” or “sado”, and the art of making and serving powdered matcha green tea is called “otemae”. “Tyakai” – informal meetings where people gather for the sake of the art of ritualized tea serving, and more formal events are called “tyaji”. Another type of ceremony, although much less common — “sentyado”, where leaf tea is used.
Zen-the Buddhist origins of tea drinking.
The tea ceremony is considered one of the three classical arts of Japanese refinement-along with the art of making kodo incense and the art of kado flower arrangements. The history of the tea ceremony dates back to Zen Buddhism. In 815, a monk named Eityu returned from China, where tea had been consumed for more than a thousand years, and personally prepared Seng tea for Emperor Saga.
The emperor was so impressed that he ordered the establishment of tea plantations immediately. So in the province of Kinki in the west of Japan began to grow the first Japanese tea. At first, it was a drink of the nobility and only in the XII century it became more widespread.
A religious ritual.
Green tea was consumed in monasteries during religious ceremonies, and tea drinking was a privilege of high society. It was believed that the best tea was grown in Kyoto from seeds brought from China.
At the dawn of the Muromachi period (1336-1573), the traditional Japanese aesthetic, including the art of the tea ceremony, began to take shape. By the 16th century, tea had become a familiar drink for all segments of Japanese society.
Seng no Rikyu is the most famous figure in the history of the Japanese tea ceremony. He believed that every meeting should be valued, because it is unique and will never happen again. Sen no Rikyu laid down four basic principles that a ceremony should follow: harmony, reverence, purity, and calmness.
Tea ceremony schools.
Modern masters adhere to the same basic principles. At the same time, there are dozens of different schools, each of which has its own differences.
The tea ceremony is always held in the specially built chashitsu tea house. Inside is a hearth, and the floor is lined with tatami mats. The materials used to build teahouses are emphatically simple and unassuming.
The master of the ceremony uses a certain set of items. Be sure to have a bowl of tyawan, a bamboo spoon for pouring tea chyasyaku and chyasen-a whisk for stirring tea during cooking.
The accuracy of following the ritual.
The correct course of action may vary slightly from school to school, but there are a number of common features. Before entering the teahouse, guests take off their shoes, after which they are shown to the waiting room. The host greets them with a silent bow. Guests perform a ritual hand wash and mouth rinse, then pass into the tatami-lined tea room. There, each guest should pay attention to the tokonoma niche, where a scroll with a saying, a flower arrangement or incense that determines the mood of the meeting is placed.
After the guests are seated in the traditional seiza poses, the master begins the tea ceremony. He thoroughly cleans the dishes, acting in a strictly defined way. The water is heated on coals in a tyagama pot. The owner prepares and brews tea in a strict order, paying special attention to details. After that, he pours tea into the teawan cup and reverently passes it to the first, most important guest.
The guest raises the cup as a sign of respect for the host, turns it slightly so as not to drink from the front edge, and takes a sip. Next, the guest pays a compliment to the excellent taste of the tea and the sophistication of the bowl. The bowl passes in a circle from guest to guest, each of whom repeats the same ritual.
Rules of decency.
Etiquette is an important part of the whole ceremony. The host must wear a traditional kimono. Guests invited to an official tea party are required to follow his example. However, ceremonies held to demonstrate to visiting visitors do not require a strict dress code. Everyone who wants to take part in the tea ceremony must follow certain steps — although guests often miss small details and make mistakes.
While the host prepares a second portion of tea, this time less strong, guests are offered small sweets. The participants of the ceremony discuss and praise the beauty of the furniture and the sophistication of the dishes used. Often, beautifully served light snacks are served with tea.
Many Japanese temples, traditional Japanese gardens, cultural institutions, and hotels have teahouses where guests can participate in the tea ceremony. There are especially many of them in Kyoto, which is considered the center of traditional Japanese culture. A full-fledged tea ceremony can last several hours, but many establishments offer reduced versions of tea drinking to foreign guests.