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The History of Chado
The History of Chado
The Japanese Tea Ceremony has been a tradition in the Japanese culture for many years. The ceremony incorporates much of the Buddhist religion with the ideals of Zen. The ceremony has many steps that end with drinking tea that is said to cleanse the spirit. In order to obtain a complete understanding of the cultural significance of the ceremony, it is necessary to understand the history behind the ceremony and how it evolved into what it is today.
Tea was first introduced to Japan by a group of Japanese Buddhist monks that returned from China on a diplomatic mission during the Heian period. These monks were sent to China in order to gain further knowledge of the Chinese culture. They acquired much knowledge including the Chinese Buddhist monks’ custom of drinking tea to stay awake during meditation (Kato). The Japanese monk Saicho thought it was a great idea and returned to Japan with hopes of spreading this custom to other monks. Over time, tea became increasingly popular among the Buddhist monks in Japan (Kato).
The Japanese Buddhist monks kept the tea drinking custom to themselves for nearly four hundred years. It was not until the twelfth century that tea reached other Japanese cultures. A Japanese monk named Eizai served tea to Minamoto Sanetomo, a famous Samurai general (Kato). After the tea drinking custom was adopted by the Japanese Samurai class, tea became increasingly popular among Japanese citizens as well (Kato).
At this point, there was not a set procedure in which the Japanese drank their tea. Zen priest Murata Shuko was the first to set a ritual in which tea to drink tea. His ritual reflected his Zen beliefs in one major way. This was the Zen ideal that there is a definite link between the spiritual world and the material world. This was displayed in the ritual through the use of various bowls and utensils, which represent the material world, and the use of tea to enrich the human spirit, which represents the spiritual world (Sen, 12). Although his tea serving ritual contained many steps and procedures, Shuko was not the actual founder of the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
The man who started the actual Japanese Tea Ceremony, or Chado, was SEN Rikyu. He was a Buddhist monk in Japan during the sixteenth century (Kato). He took some of Shuko’s ideas, such as drinking tea in a ceremony-like environment and the incorporation of Zen, and built on them. Rikyu developed a tea ceremony that focused on four major Chinese characters, WA, KEI, SEI, and JAKU. WA stands for spiritual harmony. KEI stands for respect of all things regardless of social stature. SEI stands for purity and JAKU stands for tranquillity (Sen, 13). Rikyu’s belief was that one must first obtain harmony, respect, and purity before spiritual tranquillity could be achieved (Kato). It was this basic concept that turned the act of drinking tea into a spiritual ceremony.
From that point on, the Japanese Tea Ceremony was passed on from generation to generation in the Japanese culture. The ceremony has had a great impact on the culture as a whole because of its basis. It is primarily based on religion and philosophy; both are highly respected in Japan even today. The ceremony is a beautiful tradition that has provided a link between past Japanese culture and present Japanese culture that has surpassed the test of time.
Kato, Ken. (1999, June). Welcome to Cha No Yu. Available:
Sen, Soshitsu XV. (1979). Tea life, Tea mind. New York: Weatherhill, Inc.
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Tea culture, Japanese tea ceremony, Tea ceremony, Food and drink, Tea, D, Rituals, Murata Juk, Sen no Riky, Korean tea ceremony
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