Monday, May 14, 2012

Tea Ceremony

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Procedure, people involved, and utensils used

The tea ceremony takes place in a room designed and designated for tea. It is called the chashitsu. located within the tea house. The guests are shown into the machiai, or the waiting room where the hanto, or assistant to the host awaits. He offers sayu, which is hot water used in making the tea. The guests choose one person from the group to act as the main guest. The hanto then leads the guests to a water sprinkled garden, called roji, or the dew ground, which is devoid of flowers. Here the guests cleanse themselves of the corruption and filth exposed to them while living their daily lives. Afterwards, they seat themselves on the koshikake machiai, which is the waiting bench, and anticipate the approach of the host who is officially titled teishu or house master.

Immediately before receiving the guests, the teishu fills the tuskubai, which is a stone basin, and sets it among a low stone with fresh water. Taking a ladle of water, the teishu purifies his hands and mouth. He proceeds through the chumon, which is the middle gate, to welcome his guests with a bow. Throughout this process, everyone is silent. The teishu leads the hanto, the main guest, and the remaining guests through the chumon, which symbolizes the door separating the coarse physical world and the spiritual world of tea. The guests and the hanto purify themselves at the tsukubai before entering the teahouse. The traditional teahouse has a sliding door only three feet high, symbolizing the idea the all is equal in tea, irrespective of status or social position. Thus all that enter must bow their heads and crouch. The last person to enter locks the door.

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The traditional teahouse does not have any decorations except for an alcove called a tokonoma. Hanging in the alcove is a kakemono, or scroll painting, carefully selected by the hose, which reveals the theme of the ceremony. The Buddhist scripture on the scroll is by a master and is called bokuseki, or ink traces. Each guest admires the scroll in turn and examines the kama which is the kettle. The hearth and kama are laid prior to their meeting with the host. A furo is a portable hearth and a ro is set into the floor to provide warmth during the winter. The ceremony proceeds as they are seated according to their respective positions. After the host seats himself, greetings are exchanged first between himself and the main guest and secondly between himself and the remaining guests. A charcoal fire is built before the meal during the season of ro and after the meal during the season of furo.

Each guest is served a dish called chakaiseki. It is presented on a tray with fresh cedar chopsticks, and consists of three courses. On the tray is cooked white rice in a ceramic bowl. Miso soup is also served covered in lacquer bowls with raw fish, which can either be plain or pickled. The next course derives its name from the Shinto reverence of nature. It is called hassun, which is also the name for the simple wooden tray that is used to serve this course. This course consists of uminomono, seafood, and yamanomono, mountain food, which signify the abundance of the sea and land. The host eats during this course and is served sake by each guest. The position of the server is considered to be higher, but to demonstrate the equality of all in the tea room, each momentarily acts as host. In addition, konomono, fragrant objects, are served in small ceramic bowls, and browned rice is served in salted water in a lacquer pitcher. This represents the last of the rice. Each guest cleans the utensils they have used with soft paper, which they have brought, and omogashi, principal sweets, is served to conclude the meal. The host then invites his guests to retire to the garden or waiting room while he prepares for tea. Once the guests have departed, the host removes the scroll and replaces it with flowers. The room is swept, and the utensils for preparing koi cha are arranged. Over thirteen individual items are used. Each is costly and considered an artistic object.

In the tea ceremony, water represents yin, and fire in the hearth represents yang. The water is held in a jar called the mizusashi. This stoneware jar contains fresh water symbolizing purity, and only the host touches it. Matcha is kept in a small ceramic container called a chaire which is in turn covered in a shifuku, a fine silk pouch. This is set in front of the mizusashi. The occasion will dictate the type of tana, or stand, used to display the chosen utensils. If tea is served during the day a gong is sounded, but at night a bell is rung. Usually struck or rung five to seven times, it summons the guests back to the tea house. They purify their hands and mouth once again and re-enter as before. They admire the flowers, kettle and hearth and seat themselves. The host enters with the chawan, or tea bowl, which holds the chasen, a tea whisk and chakin, a tea cloth. The chashaku, a tea scoop, is a slender bamboo scoop, and it is used to dispense the matcha, which rests across it. Retiring to the preparation room, the host returns with the kensui, a water waste bowl. He also brings the hishaku, a bamboo water ladle and a futaoki, a green bamboo rest for the kettle lid. Using a fukusa, a fine silk cloth that represents the spirit of the host, the host purifies the tea container and scoop. Poignance is found in the hosts careful inspection, folding and handling of the fukusa, for his level of concentration and state of meditation are being intensified. Hot water is ladled into the tea bowl, and the whisk is rinsed. The tea bowl is then emptied and wiped with the chakin. Lifting the tea scoop and tea container, the host places three scoops of tea for each guest. Hot water is ladled from the kettle into the teabowl in a quantity sufficient to create a thin paste with the whisk. Additional water is then added so that the paste can be whisked into a thick liquid consistent with pea soup. Unused water in the ladle is returned to the kettle.

The host passes the tea bowl to the main guest who bows in accepting it. The bowl is raised and rotate in the hand to be admired. The guest then drinks some of the tea, wipes the rim of the bowl, and passes the bowl to the next guest who does the same as the main guest. Finally, when the guests have all tasted the tea, the bowl is returned to the host who rinses it. The whisk is rinsed and the tea scoop and the tea container cleaned.

The scoop and tea container are offered to the guests for examination.

There is also a specific manner in which one must drink the tea. First, tea is given to the main guest and it is brought to his seat. The main guest places the teacup between himself and the next guest as he bows to him. Next he takes the teacup and places it in front of his knees before bowing to the host. The teacup is then picked up with the right hand and placed on the left palm. It is turned clockwise twice to avoid drinking from the front side of the teacup and finally a sip is taken. The tea is finished and turned counterclockwise before it is placed in front of the main guest.

In preparation for departure, the fire is rebuilt for the usa cha, a thin tea. This tea rinses the palate and symbolically prepares the guests for leaving the spiritual world of tea. Zabuton, or cushions, and teaburi, hand warmers, are offered. To compliment usa cha, higashi, or dry sweets, are served. Usa cha and koi cha are made in the same manner, except that less tea powder of a lesser quality is used, and it is dispensed from a date-shaped wooden container called natsume. Before the guests leave, it is polite to express their appreciation for the tea and admiration for the art of the host. They leave as the host watches from the door of the teahouse.

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