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The Japanese Tea Ceremony

japanische Teezeremonie

The Japanese tea ceremony (Japan: sado or antiquated chado), also known as tea path and tea ritual, is close to Zen Buddism in its underlying philosophy. It is a form of gathering from the ancient Japanese culture, which follows certain rules in their course. During the tea ceremony tea and light meals are served by a host for one or more guests. To provide the guest a way to the inner retreat, the ceremony takes place in a deliberately simple furnished teahouse.

Historical Background

Matcha and its manufacturing method originates in China and not in Japan. In the Sung dynasty Matcha was developed in China and in the year 1191, the Japanese Buddhist monk Eisai, who had studied Zen (a form of Buddhism, see "Matcha and Zen") in China, brought Matcha to Japan.

In the beginning, Matcha was a luxury product. Under the influence of Zen, Matcha and the tea ceremony became more and more popular and became a part of Japanese culture. By the end of the 13th century, the tea ceremony had established itself as an integral part of the practice between Samurai fighters.

Shu-ko (1423-1502) was the pioneer of Chano-yu (original name of Sado). He was a monk of Buddhism and when he arrived in Kyoto, he found that there is a lot of common ground between the spirit of Chano-yu and Buddhism and so he sublimated the "Chano yu spirit" into the original form of Wabi-Cha (formalism and philosophy behind the tea ceremony) thus he joined the spirits of Chano-yu and Buddhism.

Four centuries after the introduction of Matcha in Japan, was the zenith of Matcha. During this time the tea ceremony was surprisingly popular, and the formalism of the tea ceremony was considered standard knowledge for educated people.

Takeno Jo-O (1502-1555) learned the formalism of the tea ceremony and established it as a form of art. His pupil Syenno Rikyu (1522-1591), the famous tea master, completed the spirit and formalism of Wabi-Cha. Rikyu first served Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), the supreme Daimyo in times of war (Daimyo here refers to a rank in the Samurai society), then he became a retainer of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598). Rikyus tea philosophy was called the less you have of what is superfluous, the more you increase your spiritual level. This absolute spiritual level was for Rikyu the objective of the "Wabi cha spirit". Thanks to his indescribable contributions the tea ceremony became on the one hand formalistic and on the other hand philosophically and spiritually perfect. But Rikyus Wabi-cha dit not fit into Hideyoshi`s tea concept according to which the tea ceremony must be loose and luxurious. For this reason, Rikyu was ordered by Hideyoshi the suicide (Harakiri, Seppuku).