Get one of the most widely read articles by email once a day.
The history of the ritual.
Like other traditional Japanese practices, the tea ceremony came to the islands of the Land of the Rising Sun from China. The drink itself was familiar to the Japanese since the VII century; it is believed that it was brought by Buddhist monks. By the 12th century, tea was already familiar to all classes of Japanese society, it was drunk both in a peasant hut and at the court of the shogun. But if at first they gathered for tea to refresh themselves and talk, then from the XIII century the monks gave the process of drinking tea the character of a ritual. The first rules of the ceremony were developed by Master Dae. Gradually developing and changing, the ritual of joint tea drinking spread beyond the walls of Buddhist monasteries, since the XV century, its rules have already been taught to lay people. The ceremony was also liked by the samurai, before important battles for drinking tea, they freed their thoughts and hearts from the extra burden, from the fear of death.
A great influence on the formation of the tea ceremony was exerted by Sen no Rikyu, who lived in the XVI century. He studied tea traditions from a young age, and by the age of sixty he had become one of the most influential masters. About his rituals, the samurai said: “I have drunk the tea made by Seng no Rikyu, I am ready to die.” In the art of the tea ceremony, Rikyu drew on the Japanese idea of “wabi” – simplicity and naturalness-and “sabi” – beauty and sophistication.
In 1591, Sen no Rikyu performed hara-kiri on the orders of the Tokami ruler Hideyoshi. The reasons are unknown – it is only suggested that Hideyoshi did not accept the principle of simplicity on which he based his Rikyu teachings, and considered its influence excessive. According to ancient custom, the ritual suicide of the master was preceded by a tea ceremony.
The Rikyu school continued to exist, and his descendants and followers developed tea traditions based on what the master had created. It was Rikyu who determined the etiquette of the ceremony, and also the requirements for the utensils used in the ceremony. In addition, thanks to the master, in addition to the tea house, where the tea party was held, they began to create a garden and a path adjacent to it. The house itself was built extremely simple, like a peasant hut-nothing superfluous, full compliance with the principles of Zen Buddhism. Tea was made and drunk from ceramic dishes, simple and without frills.
The main purpose of the ritual was to provide all the guests with peace of mind, release from everyday worries, appeal to beauty and truth. Four hundred years later, the meaning of the tea ceremony remains the same.
Not just a tea party, but a meditation.
The Japanese tea ceremony is based on four principles: sei – purity, kei – respect, wa – harmony and jyaku – calmness. The tea party itself is a strictly defined sequence of actions of the participants, where there is no place for improvisation or deviation from the rules of the relevant school. Due to the fact that all the guests of the tea house strictly obey the order, participating in the general ritual, a special mood arises, similar to meditative practices, allowing you to detach yourself from your usual “I”. The masters create an atmosphere during the ceremony that leads to peace, harmony with the world and nature – this state is achieved through the consistent performance of many rituals.
They begin even before the guests enter the room where the ceremony will take place. The host meets the participants of the ceremony in the garden-tyaniva, escorts them along a stone path to a small well-pool, where they can use a special bucket to wash their hands and mouth. It symbolizes not only physical purity, but also spiritual purity. After that, the guests go to the tea house – tyasitsa .
In its traditional form, this house had a very low door-less than a meter high, so that those entering had to kneel to get inside. In addition, the small doorway forced the armed samurai to leave their long swords outside the room – during the ceremony, the guests were not distracted by any social conventions associated with the ranks, or objects that disturbed the peace – the guests seemed to be out of the usual world. According to Japanese custom, shoes were left at the doorstep – so they still do. The host can give each guest a small folded fan as a sign of hospitality, it is not allowed to open it – this is considered impolite.
The decor of the room where the tea party takes place – it is the only one in the tea house-is modest: nothing should distract the participants from meditation. As decorations in the room there are only a bouquet of flowers, on the wall-a scroll with a philosophical saying chosen by the host for the upcoming ceremony, as well as a picture or a calligraphic inscription.
How the tea ceremony goes.
The only room of the house is small, its walls are usually painted gray, the room is in shadow or even semi-darkness. The Japanese avoid excessive lighting, trying to shade the situation and leaving a minimum of light. If the ceremony is held in the dark, lanterns are lit at the path to the tyasitsa, so that their light allows you to see the way without distracting. The most important part of the room is the tokonoma niche, where they place the scroll with the saying and flowers, as well as incense.
The host and guests sit on the tatami mat on their knees. The hearth in which the tea is prepared is located in the middle of the room. At the beginning of the ceremony, kaiseki is served – a light, simple meal that is only needed so that the guests do not feel uncomfortable from the feeling of hunger. It is served while the water in the boiler or kettle is being heated. Just before pouring the tea, the host passes the omogashi-sweets to the guests. Their purpose is to prepare for the bitterness of the tea, to achieve harmony of taste. During the tea ceremony, only green matcha powder tea is used.
In the way the master prepares tea, there is no place for carelessness, literally every gesture is regulated and filled with its own philosophy. The handle of the ladle with which the tea is poured into the cup is directed to the heart, the cup itself is held with the right hand, the handkerchief with which the lid of the kettle is removed is folded in a certain way. The process of making tea takes place in complete silence, guests hear only the sounds that come from the contact of utensils, boiling water – the latter is poetically called “wind in the pines”. After each guest has received a cup of tea from the host, the conversation begins. Art, discussing a phrase from a scroll in a niche, reading poetry – this is what is discussed during the ceremony. Of the mandatory questions that guests should ask the host-the one that concerns the utensils: when and by whom it was created. Traditionally, the dishes are ceramic, immaculately clean, but with traces of long-term use. And each subject, of course, has its own role. Despite the main goal – to get away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world, during the tea ceremony, the time of year is still taken into account: in summer, in the heat, tea is served in a wide bowl, where the drink cools quickly, in winter – in a high and narrow one, it keeps warm for a long time.
The flowers that adorn the tokonoma niche should open slightly by the end of the ceremony, which reminds the tea party participants of the time spent together. At the end of the tea party, the host is the first to leave the house, but the ritual does not end after the last guest leaves. Left alone, the master removes the utensils and flowers, wipes the tatami: traces of the ceremony that recently took place in the tea house should remain only in the mind.
Another embodiment of wabi-sabi in Japanese art is the three – line haiku.