The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzō, 1906
The Book of Tea (茶の本 Cha no Hon) by Okakura Kakuzō (1906) is a long essay linking the role of chadō (teaism) to the aesthetic and cultural aspects of Japanese life. This essay, or book, was written for a Western audience where the book emphasizes how Teaism taught the Japanese many things; most importantly, simplicity. Kakuzō argues that this tea-induced simplicity affected art and architecture in Japan. It is a 53 page book that can be easily found in PDF format if one has a desire to read and study his writings on this subject.
Okakura Kakuzō (February 14, 1863 – September 2, 1913) was a Japanese scholar who made contributions to the development of art in Japan. Okakura was one of the principal founders of the first Japanese fine-arts academy, Tokyo bijutsu gakko (Tokyo School of Fine Arts). He also…
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Part II, The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzō, 1906
If you haven’t read Part I, we suggest you do that before beginning Part II.
“The tea-room (the Sukiya) does not pretend to be other than a mere cottage—a straw hut, as we call it. The original ideographs for Sukiya mean the Adobe of Fancy. Latterly the various tea-masters substituted various Chinese characters according to their conception of the tea-room, and the term Sukiya may signify the Abode of Vacancy or the Abode of the Unsymmetrical. It is an Abode of Fancy inasmuch as it is an ephemeral structure built to house a poetic impulse. It is an Abode of Vacancy inasmuch as it is devoid of ornamentation except for what may be placed in it to satisfy some aesthetic need of the moment. It is an Abode of the Unsymmetrical inasmuch as it is consecrated to the worship…
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The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzō, 1906
This is the third part of this story and comprises the final section. Let us continue with Kakuzō’s writing on the tea ceremony.
“The tea-master, Kobori-Enshiu, himself a daimyo, has left to us these memorable words: “Approach a great painting as thou wouldst approach a great prince.” In order to understand a masterpiece, you must lay yourself low before it and await with bated breath its least utterance. An eminent Sung critic once made a charming confession. Said he: “In my young days I praised the master whose pictures I liked, but as my judgment matured I praised myself for liking what the masters had chosen to have me like.”
“It is to be deplored that so few of us really take pains to study the moods of masters. In our stubborn ignorance we refuse to render them this simple courtesy, and…
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Kokan Shiren (虎関師錬), 1278–1347), Japanese Rinzai Zen patriarch and celebrated poet in Chinese, was the son of an officer of the palace guard and a mother of the aristocratic Minamoto clan. Kokan studied under the celebrated Chinese monk Yishan Yining. Their relationship can be regarded as the beginning of the golden age of the Literature of the Five Mountains in Japan. He studied calligraphy under an additional Chinese master Huang Shangu. A portrait of Kokan Shiren is in the Kaizoin of the Tōfuku-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan.
The Japanese monk Kokan Shiren dated 1343, painted by Wang Zhiweng.
Our interest in Kokan is for the similarities that many of us experience today when sharing our stones (suiseki) with friends. His experience was recorded in his essay entitled Rhymeprose on a Miniature Landscape Garden. Take a few moments to read a portion of his essay and see how well it resonates with your own experiences.
What I liked to do…
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“Su Shi(simplified Chinese:苏轼;traditional Chinese:蘇軾) (8January1037– 24August1101),courtesy nameZizhan, (Chinese:子瞻),art nameDongpo, was a Chinese writer, poet,painter, calligrapher, pharmacologist, gastronome, and astatesmanof theSong dynasty.”
Su Shi was born into a literary family in 1037. At the age of 19 he passed the highest-level civil service examinations with flying colors, and was marked out as a rising star within the world of officialdom. His lucid, eloquent essays greatly impressed Emperor Renzong (1010-1063) and by the time the young Emperor Shenzong (1048-1085) ascended to the throne in 1067, Su Shi was a respected figure among scholar-officials at court.
‘During the Song dynasty, a period of unsurpassed refinement in the arts in China, Su Shi had a brilliant and staggeringly varied career,’ explains art critic Alastair Sooke. A poet, politician, writer, calligrapher, painter and aesthetic theorist, Su Shi was the pre-eminent scholar of the Song dynasty…
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