The Way of Tea

Japanese Tea Ceremony

The tradition of the Japanese tea ceremony is a cultural activity that began in the 9th century and has developed over the ages. The ceremony morphed from austere religious ceremonies, to extravagant tea-tasting parties hosted during the reign of the Kamakura Shogunate.  From there it developed into the refined and routine practice of Chanyo.

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Chinese Oil Spot Tea Bowl, Song Dynasty
sold for $10,625

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A Karatsu Chawan, Momoyama Period 16th C.
Now live: closing March 20, 2017

The introduction of tea to Japan is attributed to the 9th century monk, Eichu. He reportedly imported the brick tea or “dancha” upon his return from China. This type of tea was ground using a mortar and added to hot water along with other herbs and flavorings.  Japanese Nobles partook in the early tea ceremonies, and the cultivation of tea began in the Kinki region.

Tencha and matcha, both finely ground forms of tea, were later introduced to Japan during the 12th century by another Buddhist monk, Eisai again from travels in China. Eisai imported seeds that would produce a quality tea.

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Tencha was initially used in religious ceremony until the Kamakura Shogunate and the Warrior Class adopted and began to indulge in the practice. The ceremony was revolutionized and transformed into a lavish event. Chadogu, or ceremonial utensils, became luxury items and the “tocha” or tea-tasting parties offered grandiose gifts to the winner of the tea-tasting games.

Royal Satsuma Tea Bowl, Meiji Period, 19th C.
sold for $9,120

Collectors of wares such as these appreciate their items for the simplicity of their form and muted natural color palate.  Others love a splash of vibrant color that seems to surprise you as it jumps out of the glaze.

Stoneware Seto Chaire, Edo Period 17th/18th Century
Now live: closing March 20, 2017

Eventually, the tea ceremony returned to a classical presentation with the rise of the Kitayama and Higashiyama Cultures. These cultures were both centered on a more elegant and refined world. These periods helped to define what we consider to be Traditional Japanese Culture.

Japanese Iron and Bronze Teapot, ca. 1900
sold for $3,781.20

The Tea Ceremony began to represent Wabi, the spiritual and internal aspects of human life. Murata Juko, a 15th century student of Zen, developed the concept of chanyo. The essence of chanyo, as Juko outlined, “The Way of Tea,” has four fundamental principals: harmony (wa), respect (kei), purity (sei), and tranquility (jaku).  Removing itself from the lavish styles of the past the aesthetic became much starker as is evidenced here.

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Large Japanese Ceramic Jar, Tamba, 16th Century
sold for $5,125.00

This refined ceremony is practiced in a variety of styles and etiquette or “temae” depending on: season, occasion, setting, and an assortment of other variables, some are formal occasions and others are a casual event.  It uses a number of chadogu, which are often valuable possessions of the hosts and their guests, and are sometimes even given names out of respect for the object.

We do not see collections of Japanese tea ceremony wares come up for sale at auction very frequently. It is always a joy to observe the collecting interests, and passions of the chaire, chawan, or other objects past owner.  And to have the opportunity to begin a new adventure with a piece that has been treasured and used for hundreds of years, with reverence and love. Currently live are many such items closing on April 20, 2017.  View them in this auction.

Chado or the Japanese tea ceremony is now practiced by all classes. It is iconic and incorporates many facets of the lifestyles that define the Japanese Culture.