Tea ceremony is the most common English term for the Japanese traditional art of preparing, serving, and drinking matcha known as chadō/sadō (茶道, literally the way of tea), chanoyu (茶の湯, literally hot water for tea), or simply ocha (お茶, tea). Other terms occasionally used in English include "the way of tea," "tea cult," "teaism," or simply "tea." Tea ceremony centres around the preparation of matcha, or powdered green tea.
While it is not a religious ceremony it is strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism, and early tea masters such as Murata Jukō and Rikyū studied under Zen monks, affecting their concept of and approaches to tea. Important concepts in tea ceremonoy include wabi and sabi (sober refinement and appreciation of imperfection); ichi-go ichi-e (literally "one time, one meeting," a philosophy that each moment is unique, unrepeatable, and must be treasured); and "wa kei sei jaku," or harmony, respect, purity and tranquillity.
There are three main schools of tea in Japan: Urasenke, Omotesenke, and Musha(no)kōjisenke, also known as the san-Senke, or three houses of Sen. All claim descent from 16th century tea master Sen (no) Rikyū (usually known as Rikyū), who is considered one of the most influential figures in the history of tea ceremony. There are many other schools of tea within Japan, some related to the san-Senke and others claiming descent from different figures, but the two best-known outside the country are the largest and second-largest schools, Urasenke and Omotesenke.
Camellia sinensis, the Chinese tea plant, is native to mainland China, South and Southeast Asia. The earliest extant records of tea's use as a beverage date to the 10th century BCE in China It was widely popular by the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE), when it spread to Korea and Japan.
Tea was first taken from China to Japan in the early 800s by the Buddhist monk Eichū. This is the first documented evidence of tea in Japan. By imperial order in the year 816, tea plantations began to be cultivated in the Kinki region of Japan. In the early 9th century, Chinese author Lu Yu wrote The Classic of Tea. Lu was heavily influenced by Chán Buddhism (禅, Japanese Zen), and Zen became an important influence in the development of Japanese tea ceremony.
Around the end of the 12th century, the style of tea preparation currently used in tea ceremony, in which matcha is placed into a bowl, hot water is added, and the mixture whisked together, was introduced by another Japanese monk called Eisai. Matcha was first used by Buddhist monks to keep them alert during long hours of prayer, and as an offering to the Buddha. By the 13th century, however, tea drinking had spread among the elite classes, including the samurai, whose culture was also heavily influenced by Zen. Among the nobility, tea become a status symbol, and elaborate ways of serving and preparing it were created. At the same time, others began to develop tea as a "way," creating an aesthetic based on the notions of wabi and sabi.
Tea equipment is called chadōgu (茶道具) or simply dōgu. A wide variety of dōgu is used incorporating seasonal styles and motifs. Dōgu are handled with special care, regardless of their purchase value: they are carefully cleaned before and after each use and before storing, and some items, particularly iron kettles which may be damaged by the oils in human skin, are handled only with gloved hands.
Certain dōgu, mainly tea scoops, tea containers, and tea bowls, are given poetic names by their makers or owners, or by the iemoto (grand master) of a tea school.
In addition to tea and a source of hot water, the most basic tea preparation requires the following items:
- Kashiki, a container or plate for serving sweets to guests before they drink tea.
- Fukusa, a square silk cloth used for ritually purifying certain dōgu, for handling hot items, and for other uses.
- Tea bowl (茶碗) hand made chawan are available in many sizes, shapes and styles. Shallow bowls are used at the height of the hot season because they allow the tea to cool rapidly; deep bowls are used in the coldest months because they maintain the heat.
- Kensui, a waste water container used to hold the water used for heating and rinsing bowls in the tea room.
- Chakin (茶巾), a small rectangular white linen or hemp cloth. Chakin are used mainly to wipe the tea bowl during the ritual cleaning in front of guests.
- Tea caddy. The most basic type of tea caddy is the natsume (棗, named for the jujube fruit), a small lidded lacquered wooden or bamboo container into which the tea is placed for use in the tea room, but there are a great many other types and styles.
- Tea scoop (茶杓, chashaku). Chashaku are typically carved from a single piece of bamboo, although some are wood, ivory, or other materials. They are used in the tea room to scoop tea from the tea caddy into the tea bowl.
- Tea whisk (茶筅, chasen). Chasen are carved from a single piece of bamboo and between 80 and 100 tines. They are used to whisk the tea and hot water together in the tea bowl.
Tea ceremony and kimono
Tea ceremony evolved at a time when kimono was daily wear for both men and women, and kimono remains the ideal, preferred, and most formal clothing for tea. Because kimono was worn by those who developed tea, many of the movements are are designed specifically for kimono. For example, standard movements exist for straightening one's kimono or hakama or for moving sleeves out of the way. Items like the various silk cloths, paper and fans are intended to be tucked into the obi or the breast of the kimono, and used paper is placed into the sleeve.
Most teachers wear kimono when teaching. While not all teachers require students to always wear kimono for practice, some require that more advanced students do so, and most encourage students to wear kimono at least some of the time, which is necessary to learn the correct movements.
Hosts always wear kimono, while guests wear either kimono or subdued Western formal clothing (suits for men, and long skirts for women). Perfume is not worn, and neither is jewellery of any kind, including obidome.
There are two main seasonal divisions in tea: the cool season, from November to May, and the warm season, from May to October. Both men and women wear lined kimonos in the cool season, and unlined ones in the warm season. Yukata and haori are not worn for tea ceremony. Both men and women wear white tabi in the tea room throughout the year.
For practice, men wear subdued and mostly unpatterned kimonos in various seasonal fabrics along with appropriately subdued obi, while women wear seasonally appropriate fabrics and obi. For formal occasions, both men and women wear formal kimono (for women, often iromuji or furisode) with mon and white undergarments. Men also wear hakama or, if they have earned the right, a jittoku (or juttoku 十徳) jacket instead of hakama. Women do not wear hakama for tea ceremony, and do not gain the right to wear a jittoku.
For women, appropriate kimono for tea gatherings include furisode, irotomesode, homongi, tsukesage, iromuji, komon/Edo komon, muji tsumugi and homongi tsumugi. There is, however, considerable leeway outside Japan, where many practitioners believe that any kimono is better than no kimono. As always, if unsure about what is appropriate, it is best to ask.
Tea ceremony and other traditional arts
- "Tea". Encarta. Retrieved 2008-07-23.
- The Columbia Encyclopedia Sixth Edition.
- "Eichū," in Genshoku Chadō Daijiten, Tankōsha, Kyoto (2002),
- Sen Soshitsu XV, The Japanese Way of Tea: From Its Origins in China to Sen Rikyu. Trans. Dixon Morris. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1998
- Hiroichi Tsutsui (筒井紘一), "Tea-drinking Customs in Japan", paper presented at the 4th International Tea Culture Festival, Korean Tea Culture Association (Seoul, 1996)
The san-Senke schools: