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The Tea Ceremony

Let's take a brief look at features of the Japanese tea ceremony, or sado (also called cha-no-yu or chado) that will help you understand the basic meaning of it. By many, it is considered to be one of the last vestiges of an older, gentler era. It accords with a metaphor of traditional Japanese culture. At its heart, the Japanese tea ceremony is not just a meeting and it goes far beyond the simple drinking of tea. It may take hours to complete. The Japanese tea ceremony is a way of looking at the universe and understanding how the universe works and how its various aspects relate to each other. It is significant because it possesses all aspects of Japanese culture that includes pottery, architecture, tea-garden, flower arrangement, kimono, calligraphy and so on. The basic principles of the Japanese tea ceremony are expressed in the words of Wa Kei Sei Jaku (harmony, respect, purity and tranquillity).

Historical records vary slightly, but it is commonly believed that the Japanese tea ceremony was introduced by Eisai (1141-1215), a Zen priest, who brought Zen Buddhism to Japan in the twelfth century. It is no surprise, therefore, that the Japanese tea ceremony is deeply influenced by Zen philosophy. He wrote a book introducing various medicinal benefits to be found in tea and encouraged people to drink it. As a result, the tea drinking practice prospered gradually from aristocrats and priests to samurai warriors. It was further adopted by the tea master Sen-no-Rikyu (1521-1591) in the Muromachi era. He was credited with refining the tea ceremony to the level of a national recognition and its practice has developed to become the Japanese tea ceremony we admire today.

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