Chanoyu, tea ceremony, has been one of the pillars of Japanese culture as it combines all the concepts of Japanese art in a living tradition. It is still being practiced in various degrees of dedication by many people today. Some go to great lengths to follow all the rules of a certain school by collecting all the necessary utensils and having a tea room in their house or even a tea house in their garden. But many more Japanese regularly enjoy the careful preparation of a cup of maccha, a strong green tea powder whisked to a froth, in good company without feeling restricted by any ceremonious rules.
The tea ceremony came into being in the 14th century. The most famous tea master is the 16th century Sen no Rikyu. He brought the aspect of wabicha in the tea ceremony to its culmination. Wabi stand for cultivated poverty. It means that we must enjoy the simplest things in life to the full. In tea ceremony this led to the use of very rough and irregularly shaped pottery and utensils made of bamboo. This pottery is highly priced, however, so the ideal of poverty in chanoyu is a cultivated one, indeed. A real chanoyu aficionado will have a tea house in his garden that looks like a simple hut, but may have cost a small fortune in design as even the old wooden boards of the walls will have been carefully selected for their pattern.
David van Ooijen
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