This is the deification of the art of living. (Kikuzo Okakura)
Among the unique arts, which in our understanding are inextricably linked with Japan, is the art of the tea ceremony-cha-no yu, which literally means “tea with hot water” (cha – tea, yu – hot water). The Japanese tea ceremony is not just a tradition, it is a sacrament that cannot fail to attract attention and arouse respect.
The art of the tea ceremony is studied for years in special schools. Despite the fact that the process itself may seem simple and natural, there is no limit to perfection in this. The ability of a Japanese girl to meet guests, sit them down on mats according to the Japanese tradition, prepare fragrant tea, and then, pouring it into cups, serve it with a bow is the highest sign of aesthetic education.
Cha-no yu is one of the ways to learn the psychology and worldview of the Japanese. Its true meaning lies not so much in tasting tea brewed according to all the rules, but in finding a certain state of mind, detachment from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and comprehending Zen. The tea ceremony promotes the establishment of an atmosphere of unity, harmony between all its participants, which implies detachment from one’s own “I”.
The tea ceremony, as in a mirror, reflects the essence of the culture of Japan, its uniqueness and uniqueness. It finds its manifestation in the rare diligence of the Japanese, their innate politeness and an unusual sense of beauty, modesty, simplicity, laconism and at the same time the extraordinary elegance of the decoration, clothing and interior. The tea ceremony is also a vivid example of the amazing ability of the Japanese to borrow and develop the achievements of other peoples and cultures, while preserving their national identity.
The history of the tea ceremony dates back to the VIII century. According to one version, tea was first imported to Japan from China in 805. In China, it was valued as a medicinal plant that relieves fatigue and helps from many diseases, and was even used in meditation. One of the ancient Taoist treatises says that ” if you drink tea constantly, you can gain wings and learn to fly.”
After the termination of official relations with China in 894, interest in tea declined sharply, and only in 1191 it reappeared in Japan.
In the XIII century, after the spread of Zen teaching in Japan, tea drinking developed into a kind of ritual, which soon became an integral part of everyday life in Buddhist monasteries. In the XV century, thanks to the Zen Buddhist monk Suko, the foundations of “cha-no yu” were formed. It was he who brought an atmosphere of simplicity and understatement to the tea ceremony, reflecting the basic principles of Zen aesthetics. According to Syuko, the beautiful should not manifest itself in full force, for its realization, concealment is necessary. The essence of the ceremony was the relaxed sincerity and natural naturalness of things. The concept of “wabitya” created by Suko was based on four principles: naturalness and tranquility, few and simple decoration, utensils in accordance with the age of the guest, equanimity and serenity.
According to Syuko, these principles helped to achieve unanimity between the host and the guest and focus on one thing, allowing them to understand each other not with words, but with the help of the heart.
The art of tea drinking reached its heyday in the XVI century thanks to Seng no Rikyu, who managed to generalize the ideas of his predecessors and bring them to their logical conclusion. He opposed all forms of luxury, considering the art of tea drinking one of the many ways to serve the Way of the Buddha. With him, the tea ceremony was held in an atmosphere of rough simplicity, contributing to the achievement of a certain spiritual mood in accordance with the principles of Zen – rigor and asceticism.
After Japan opened its borders to the Western world, the tea ceremony gradually began to lose popularity, which forced many masters to make certain concessions and simplify it, making changes in accordance with the spirit of the time: now tables and chairs could be present in the ceremony.
At the end of the 70s of the XIX century, cha-no yu again enters the heyday: tea ceremonies are held in many large temples, and in 1887 a solemn tea ceremony was held in honor of Emperor Meiji in the imperial palace in Kyoto.
In the new time, the tea ceremony is becoming more democratic. If earlier only men could take part in it, now there are more and more women among the masters of cha-no yu.
In the course of history, the tea ceremony has had a huge impact on the behavior and life of the Japanese and gave rise to other arts, for example, the art of ikebana. Nowadays, both Japanese men and women study every movement of the tea ceremony.
Words are not spoken by the Guest, the host, the White chrysanthemum.
The tea ceremony is surrounded by a special atmosphere, which the Japanese call “Wa”. In cha-no yu, everything, from the garden and the tea house built in it to the decoration of the tea room, is created but in order to generate a certain state of mind. An open garden with mossy stones and an overgrown pond embodies nature, free from human interference, and a tea house with supports made of rough wood or bamboo and a low thatched roof is its natural extension. The tea room is in semi-darkness, time seems to have stopped here. All items intended for the tea ceremony have a strictly defined shape, color and texture. Their number is also strictly determined by traditions. Each of them bears the stamp of antiquity, the only exceptions are a linen tablecloth and a bucket made of cut bamboo, which always remain deliberately new and fresh. The whole atmosphere of the tea house is designed to distract from the hustle and bustle and lead to a state of peace and tranquility.
The Japanese believe that if the passions raging in the human soul generate certain gestures, then there are also gestures that can affect it. Strictly defined measured movements of the tea ceremony create peace in the soul and bring it into a state of balance. Arising from a special ritual of tea drinking, which was practiced by Zen monks, the art of the tea ceremony is considered as one of the ways to comprehend the true meaning of being.
The preparation and organization of the tea ceremony takes place in accordance with the traditions. First of all, the host carefully considers the list of guests and sends out invitations to each of them, which indicate the time and place of the tea party, its type and composition of guests. Special attention is paid to the choice of the main guest, who must be a respected person who is well acquainted with the ritual of the tea ceremony. The guests come to the ceremony in appropriate clothes. If the tea ceremony is formal, then men, as a rule, wear a silk kimono, a black cape “haori”, wide trousers “hakama” and a white belt “tabi” (belt) of white color. Women’s clothes should not be bright.
As a rule, no more than five people take part in the ceremony. At the entrance to the tea house, the hostess greets the guests with a bow. Even if the ritual takes place during the day, the tea room should be in semi-darkness. The ceremony lasts about 4 hours and consists of three stages: eating, drinking “thick”, and then “liquid” tea. It is the responsibility of the owner of the house to prepare and serve tea to those present. The powdered tea powder is poured with hot water and whipped into a fluffy foam. This tea is much stronger than usual for Europeans. No more than three sips of the drink are poured into the guest’s cup. It should be taken with special movements, after which the guest should thank the host. Conversations during the tea ceremony are not accepted, and only after the first sip is it allowed to ask a question about the dishes, the master who made it, to speak well about the quality of tea, etc.
Over the centuries-old history of the tea ceremony, there have been seven types of tea drinking: “Tea action in the morning”. “Tea action at noon”. “Tea action at night”. “Tea action with sweets”. “Tea action outside of a certain time”. “Tea action at dawn”. “A tea event arranged for those who came after the “main tea party”.
The classical Japanese tea ceremony is based on four principles, each of which has deep historical and cultural roots. The principle of harmony implies the presence of internal unity between the participants of the tea party, which helps them to become one. Each participant of the tea party should show respect to the other guests and the ceremony itself. The third principle implies the purity of thoughts and the absence of selfish goals. A prerequisite for participation in the tea ceremony is also a state of rest , which, in fact, the previous principles are aimed at achieving.
According to Kikuzo Okakura, in the eyes of a foreign layman, the tea ceremony is only an example of ” a thousand and one oddities that make up the incomprehensibility and childishness of the East.” However, before making hasty conclusions, it is worth thinking about how, in fact, “the cup of human joys is small and how wise are those who know how to fill it.” According to the Japanese, a person who knows how to live sees the joys of life where others do not notice them. The tea ceremony teaches you to find the beautiful in the ordinary, to be content with the small, to find a connection between nature, art and everyday life.
The tea ceremony opens the door for us to another world with its own traditions and laws, without which it is impossible to understand the character of the Japanese people and make a full picture of the country. This unusual ritual reflects the desire for harmony and balance and teaches us to look at the world in accordance with the Zen worldview.