Japan's Tea Ceremony

This article is an overview of the Japanese Tea Ceremony and the meaning of each element.

The Japanese tea ceremony has its roots in China. It was brought to Japan by a monk. Because of this, tea drinking was popular mainly amongst monks. In the 12th century it spread to the samurai. During the 16th century, Sen Rikyu established the foundation of chado.

There are four elements to chado. They are WA, KEI, SEI, and JAKU.

WA represents harmony

KEI represents respect

SEI represents purity

JAKU represents tranquillity

Also, there are several types of tea ceremonies.

WA-KEI-SEI-JAKU * this word shows the basic idea of chado.

ICHI-GO-ICHI-E * this is a tea ceremony given in the event of meeting someone for the first time.

EN * represents freedom, equality, and indiscrimination.

MU * consists of all objects and ideas in the world such as yes, no zero, and one, even though they seem contradictory.

SHU-JIN-KOU * represents truthfulness to oneself.

KITSU-SA-KO * means that a bowl of tea is served to anyone who wants one.

A formal tea gathering is called SYOUGO-NO-CHAJI' SHOUGO-NO-CHAJI. This event may take as long as four hours. Each movement in the ceremony has its own rules and every guest has a role to play.

TEISYU * the host

SYOU-KYAKU * a guest in the highest status

OTSUME * a guest in the lowest status

There are several steps to chado.

1. Invitation - to be courteous, the TEISYU should write to the people and state the purpose, place and time of the gathering. After receiving the invitation, the person should write back. It should be received by the TEISYU a few days before the ceremony. On the day before the ceremony, the guest should visit the TEISYU, called ZENREI, to express his gratitude for the invitation. If the guest doesn't have time for a ZENREI, a letter or a call is allowed. It is required that the guests come earlier than the appointed time. This is to allow the guest to take of unnecessary belongings.

2. The guest exchange greetings. They are served SAYU - hot water - to drink. Then the guests go outside and sit down on a bench (KOSIKAKE-MACHIAI) in an outer portion of the garden (SOTO-ROJI). When the TEISYU gets ready to accept the guests, he comes to a gate, called CYUU-MON, to greet them. This is called MUKAE-TSUKE. The guests also come to the gate and bow to the host without saying anything. Then the TESYU leaves for the tea hut while the guests continue to wait.

3. After some time has passed, the guests step into the inner part of the garden (UCHI-ROJI) and proceed to a stone bowl of water (TSUKU-BAI). At this water bowl, the guests purify their hands and mouths with the water. Then they go to the tea hut, past an extremely small entrance called (NIJIRI-GUCHI). Then they take off their shoes and stand them against the wall. The guests enter the tea hut according to their status. When the last guest enters, they all sit down.

4. After greetings are exchanged with the TESYU, tea ceremony cuisine (KAISEKI-RYOURI) is served. This begins with a small amount of rice, soup and a side dish for a drink. After the rice and soup are eaten, SAKE is served to drink with the side dish. Then rice and soup are served again, followed by a boiled food, another drink, a grilled food, and a side dish for a drink (SHIIZI-KANA). While these dishes are being ate, the guest and the TESYU talk. After the meal, the TESYU adds charcoal to the fireplace to prepare for the next tea, called KOI-CHA. At this time incense is burned and cakes are served. After this, the guests go back outside to the garden to wait.

5. After a wait, the TESYU rings a gong. This signals the guests to come back in. They again wash at the water bowl. They enter the tearoom in the same order that they entered the last time. This second entry is called GOIRI. The tearoom will have been changed, flowers will be on the wall and the skylight will be open. This is the beginning of the main tea, KOI-CHA. This is a strong tea and each guest drinks out of the same bowl. The TESYU sets the bowl and a piece of cloth on the floor in a certain position.

The first guest comes and takes the bowl and returns to his seat. He then drinks the tea in the following rules. He puts the bowl in the left hand and the cloth in the right.

Then all the guests bow.

He spreads the cloth in his hand and puts the bowl on it.

He turns the bowl towards himself twice.

He then drinks the tea, keeping the front of the bowl away from himself.

He then wipes the lip of the bowl with the cloth to purify it.

He puts the bowl in front of himself an passes it to the next guest together with the cloth.

6. After all the guests have finished the tea, the TESYU adjust the fire in the fireplace before USU-CHA, a weaker tea, is served. Also, while the tea is being prepared, cakes are served. This tea is different than the other in that each guest has his own bowl. Before they drink the tea, they turn the bowl twice and avoid drinking from the front of the bowl. The guest exchanges a bow with the next guest. After drinking, he wipes the lip of the bowl with his fingers and puts it in front of himself.

7. Lastly, TAI-SEKI begins. The TESYU says a few words of gratitude to each guest for his attendance. A fan is placed in front of each guest and they thank him for his hospitality. Then the guest exchange bows with each other. When the guests leave the tearoom, they exit through the same entrance. When they are out, TESYU opens the door of the entrance and bows to the guests. The guests also silently bow. They silently walk through the garden and the dressing room to change their clothes and then finally leave.

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