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The Japanese Way of Tea

The Japanese Way of Tea: From Its Origins in China to Sen Rikyu

Sen Sōshitsu
Translated by V. Dixon Morris
Copyright Date: 1998
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  • Book Info
    The Japanese Way of Tea
    Book Description:

    Almost a millennium before the perfection of chado (the Way of Tea) by Sen Rikyu (1522-1591), the Chinese scholar-official Lu Yu (d. 785) wrote exhaustively about tea and its virtues. Grand Tea Master Sen Soshitsu begins his examination of tea's origins and development from the eighth century through the Heian and medieval eras. This volume illustrates that modes of thinking and practices now associated with the Japanese Way of Tea can be traced to China--where from the classical period tea was imbued with a spiritual quality.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6480-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    Paul Varley and Sen Sōshitsu XV

    There is no more revered personage in the history ofchanoyuthan Sen Rikyū (1522–1591). Perfecter ofwabicha(chanoyubased on thewabiaesthetic), national tea master and arbiter of taste, personal adviser to the hegemon Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536–1598), Rikyū is a towering figure not only in the cultural records of the late sixteenth century, when he lived, but also in those ofchanoyuthrough all the centuries that have followed. In the Edo period (1600–1867), Rikyū was deified as the god of tea, and from at least Tokugawa times all tea schools have traced their lineages,...

  4. Author’s Preface to the English Edition
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Translator’s Preface
    (pp. xvii-xxi)
  6. Historical Periods Covered in This Volume
    (pp. xxii-xxii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. xxiii-xxviii)

    When I am asked about a life devoted to tea, I often respond that it is “an intellectual diversion in another world.” The Way of Tea, though it is a part of real life, strives to attain a spiritual form of entertainment on a higher dimension. I should like to discuss concretely the reasons why I have defined it in this fashion.

    When invited to a tea gathering, what might the guest be thinking as he or she stands in that garden, called the “dewy ground,” outside the tea house? Why must I tread this dewy path as a first...

  8. PART 1: The Classic of Tea

    • 1 The Advent of Lu Yu and The Classic of Tea
      (pp. 3-30)

      Among the works on “tea,” that which is regarded as both the oldest and the greatest is theChajing, The Classic of Tea.¹ Lu Yu, its author, esteemed as the progenitor of the drinking of tea, was a Tang dynasty scholar-official of the eighth century also known as Lu Hongjian. Because of his seminal role, it is appropriate to begin a consideration of the history of tea with him. First, however, let us consider the earliest history of tea drinking in order to place Lu Yu into perspective.

      TheChajingsays, “Tea is a grand plant of the southern regions.”²...

    • 2 Tea in China after The Classic of Tea
      (pp. 31-44)

      We have seen in the previous chapter that the drinking of tea became widely popular in China after Lu Yu wrote hisClassic.As soon as the work appeared, extraordinary reverberations burst forth. Lu Yu himself became the immortal sage of tea and was called “Doctor Tea.” Tea merchants worshiped statues of him fashioned in porcelain and gave them as gifts to favored customers. Poets continued to write paeans to Lu Yu and hisClassic.His work not only enjoyed a wide readership, but was even esteemed as the canon of tea.

      This reaction was surely strange. From the most...

  9. PART 2: The Arrival of Tea in Japan

    • 3 Tea in the Heian Era
      (pp. 47-56)

      No one has been able to determine precisely when the practice of drinking tea came into Japan, but so far as I have been able to ascertain, the earliest reference we have to tea in this country dates back at least to 814 toKūkai Hōken Hyō (Shōryōshū, volume 4) in a passage dated the twenty-eighth day of the intercalary seventh month. The great Shingon monk Kūkai had traveled to Tang China in 804 and had returned two years later laden with an enormous quantity of books, paintings, and Buddhist statutes. The passage explains how Kūkai presented ten of these...

    • 4 The Ethos of the Kissa Yōjōki
      (pp. 57-74)

      In the previous chapter I referred to the poetry of the Heian era and observed that the way of thinking about tea that the aristocratic and priestly classes depicted in their writing was a direct importation from China. This was, no doubt, a consequence of Japan’s position in the East Asian cultural sphere. The flow of culture from China was unidirectional, as if Tang were at the summit of a mountain and all the streams ran down into Korea and Japan. The attitude toward tea found in the poetry of Heian seemed to move in an unbroken line from the...

    • 5 Tea in the Temples of the Medieval Era
      (pp. 75-88)

      Tradition has it that it was in 1214 that Eisai wrote hisKissa Yōjōki.¹ Thereafter, up until the end of the Kamakura era, priests especially, as well as many warriors and aristocrats, enjoyed drinking tea. As we have seen in the previous chapter, Eisai returned to Japan from his second sojourn in China in 1191 carrying tea seeds, which he then planted at Seburiyama in Hizen province. This was called Ishigami tea. The traditional account continues that Eisai presented some of his tea seeds to Saint Myōe at Toganoo in Kyoto and that they were in a persimmon-shaped tea container,...

    • Color plates
      (pp. None)
    • 6 The Vogue of Tea Contests
      (pp. 89-116)

      The previous chapter focused particularly upon the drinking of tea among priests during the Kamakura era, and we have seen that they used it primarily as a medicine to treat physiological complaints. The cultivation of tea, in the meantime, appears to have spread ever more widely to various parts of the country. TheIsei Teikin Ōrai,dating from the early Muromachi era, contains a list of tea-producing areas that shows the state of tea cultivation in Japan at that time: “The most famous temple [where tea is grown] is first of all at Toganoo. Other, secondary places include Ninnaji, Daigo,...

  10. PART 3: The Creation of a Way of Tea

    • 7 Murata Jukō and the Birth of the Way of Tea
      (pp. 119-145)

      As each age progressed, cultural leadership shifted greatly from one social class to another. And there was a corresponding, qualitative change in the nature of culture itself because of the differing spiritual climates and intellectual forms among those who bore the cultural burden. In the age of massive borrowing from China, for example, the monks and students who had returned from the continent and were in the vanguard of cultural importation uncritically accepted Chinese customs and life-styles. For this reason, as the culture of tea amply illustrates, they swallowed Lu Yu’s world view whole and intact. Accordingly, Japanese culture had...

    • 8 Takeno Jōō and the Maturation of the Way of Tea
      (pp. 146-157)

      Murata Jukō’s aesthetic sense, with its cold and withered beauty, its cloud-covered moon, and the contrast of “a magnificent steed in a straw hut” marked a sharp departure from the practice of tea as it had existed in the early medieval era. His contributions brought about the birth of a Way of Tea as distinct from the tea rituals of the temples, on the one hand, as from the tea entertainments of the parvenus, on the other. In order for a comprehensive art of tea to flourish, however, still further changes would have to occur. One of these changes would...

    • 9 Rikyū and the Fruition of the Way of Tea
      (pp. 158-176)

      The more profound concept ofchanoyu,which Jukō and Jōō had helped to shape, saw its completion with the advent of Rikyū, who further refined it and provided it with a philosophical and aesthetic structure. Let us in these final pages trace the process by which Rikyū further deepened the concept of an art of tea.

      Jōō, as a means of escaping the formality of the oldshoinstyle of tea that still survived in his day, had embraced achanoyuthat was considerate and not arrogant, and used the word “wabi” as a way to express that whole concept....

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 177-188)

    So far in this volume we have examined the differences in and transformation ofchanoyuin China and Japan through each of several epochs. The permutations in the drinking of tea from the age of Emperor Shennong in China until Sen Rikyū during the Momoyama era in Japan were many. The changes in the service of tea after the origin of the grass hut tradition of chanoyu with Murata Jukō were especially pronounced, and no doubt the most decisive development was the creation of orderly procedures for the preparation of tea, which the Japanese calltemae.Thetemaeforchanoyu,...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 189-212)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-218)
  14. Index
    (pp. 219-230)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 231-231)