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Japanese Tea Ceremony

Tea was first introduced to Japan along with Buddhism from China in the 6th century, but the Emperor Shomu introduced tea drinking to the country. During the Heian period (794-1185), tea was made from steamed and dried tea leaves ground into a powder called macha. In the 15th century, Juro Murata introduced many of the concepts of spirituality into tea ceremony, including the special room only used for the chanoyu. Tea ceremonies were required to follow a certain order. Zen Buddhist concepts in the tea ceremony were introduced by Sen no Rikyu, a Japanese tea master.

During the second half of the 16th century, Sen no Rikyu created the ceremony that is now practiced and taught in Japan called Chado. He also designed a separate building for the ceremony based on a typical Japanese farmer’s hut. He further formalized the tea ceremony’s rules and identified the spirit of chanoyu with four basic Buddhist principles of harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. They represent the ideals of the tea ceremony. Sen no Rikyu believed that we could reach tranquillity in the mind after we achieved harmony, respect, and purity. Chado includes almost all aspects of Japanese culture.

For example, flower arrangement, ceramic, calligraphy, etc. According to Hisamatsu Shinichi, Chado is an incarnation of Buddhism. That is not entirely true. Not only Buddhism but also others including Taoism and Confucianism have influenced Chado The ceremony takes place in a room designed and designated for tea. It is called the chacensoredsu. Usually this room is inside the tea house, away from the house, in the garden. The guests are brought into the waiting room. Here, the assistant to the host offers them the hot water which ill be used to make tea.

While here, the guests choose one of their group to act as the main guest. The assistant then leads them to a garden. They then sit on the waiting bench, and wait for the host. The host leads the assistant, the main guest and the others (in that order) through the chumon, which symbolizes door between the coarse physical world and the spiritual world of tea. The guests and assistant purify themselves and enter the teahouse. The sliding door is only three feet high, so everyone must bow their heads and crouch. The last person in closes the door. Hanging in the room is a scroll painting.

Each guest admires the scroll, then examines the kettle and hearth. They are seated according to their positions in the ceremony. The host seats himself and greetings are exchanged, first between the host and the main guest, then the host and the other guests. Each guest is given a meal called chakaiseki. The meal has three courses. After the meal, each guest cleans their utensils with soft paper. A sweet is served at the end of the meal. The host then removes the scroll and replaces it with flowers. The room is swept and the utensils are rranged.

The host enters with the tea bowl which holds the tea whisk, the tea cloth, and the tea scoop. The host goes to the preparation room and returns with the waste water bowl, the bamboo water ladle, and a green bamboo rest for the kettle lid. Then he closes the door to the preparation room. Using a fine silk cloth the host cleans the tea container and scoop. Hot water is put into the tea bowl, the whisk is rinsed, the tea bowl is emptied and wiped with the cloth. The host places three scoops of tea per guest into the tea bowl. Enough hot water is ut into the teabowl to create a thin paste with the whisk.

More water is then added. The host passes the tea bowl to the main guest who bows. The bowl is raised and turned to be admired. The guest then drinks some of the tea, wipes the rim of the bowl, and passes the bowl to the next guest who does the same as the main guest. When the guests have all tasted the tea, the bowl is given to the host, who rinses it. The whisk, the tea scoop, and the tea container are cleaned. At the conclusion, the guests express their appreciation for the tea, and leave while the host watches from the door of the teahouse.

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