History of “chanoyu”

The Classic of Tea, which was written by Chinese famous writer Lu Yu (733-804), is considered to be the first book to introduce the systemised knowledge of tea to Japan from China.

The custom of drinking and the manufacturing method of tea ware was brought to Japan by a Japanese envoy in the Heian period. Tea was considered to be a medicine instead of abeverage and was regularly enjoyed by aristocrats and monks.

In the course of time, “sarei,” which refers to the rituals or etiquettes of offering tea in the teachings of a Zen Buddhist monastery, had become an increasingly important. In the Muromachi period, Juko Murata, who was the tea master of Yoshimasa Ashikaga, lectured on a tea ceremony which discussed the spiritual relationships between the host and the guest. It became the origin of “wabi-cha.”

“Wabi-cha” was completed by Sen no Rikyu in the Azuchi-Momoyama period. Until the early Edo period, “Chanoyu,” the tea ceremony, was only for feudal lords and wealthy merchants, but the number of people who practiced “chanoyu” had remarkably increased when merchants prospered economically during the Edo period.

The original meaning of “sado,” which was “to develop the inner poise coming from within when welcoming a guest,” was emphasised. The Buddhist temples of the Rinzai sect’s Daitokujischool played an important role, and their motto, “wakeiseijaku,” meaning harmony, respect, purity and tranquility, which is the foundation of the “sado” of the Rikyu school, was created in the process.

“Chanoyu” is now called “sado” and was completed by reviewing the style of “temae” of each school and structuring the style of tea ceremony by rethinking the original spirit of sado, which is paramount when welcoming a guest.

The Four Principals of “chanoyu”

The Four Principals of chanoyu are wa (harmony), kei (respect),sei (purity), and jaku (tranquility). Harmony is shown in the interaction between the participants, as well as between the utensils and seasons. Respect between host and guest, and among the guests themselves, is vital. Purity from the heart is extended to all present and to the utensils. It is both spiritual and physical. Tranquility, as mentioned above, can be attained when you grasp the essence of the other three. Though written over 400 years ago, they still hold true today, and will continue to do so 400 years from now. These ideals are universal and show that the values of tea are timeless.

Awe and respect for nature has been significant in Japan since ancient times. In particular, the tree is considered to be a sacred place where gods and spirits dwell. Large trees that are hundreds of years-old are called goshinboku. These are guarded in shrines and worshipped. That’s how special trees are to the Japanese.