Tea Ceremony is known as one of Japanese cultural traditions. Although SEN Rikyu, who established the foundation of so called tea ceremony, mentioned that Cha-no-yu, Chado, or tea ceremony was only making and drinking tea, many people have been attracted by the ceremony. In a tea gathering or a tea party, a host and a guest can share a sense of togetherness in a small tea house. A host and a guest are not usually expected to talk physically but spiritually, while in an English-styled tea party, people are expected to talk each other physically.

In the eighth century, the custom of drinking green tea was brought from China to Japan by a monk. As a result, the custom of drinking tea in Japan was popular among mainly monks at that time. In the twelfth century, Eizai, a Japanese monk, presented tea to MINAMOTO Sanetomo, a general, the custom spread to the samurai class. Then, the custom became popular among citizens in the fourteenth century. At that time, MURATA Shuko was spiritually awakened by Zen, and he found the Buddha's thought in the way of making and drinking tea. That is, any book didn't have the Buddha's thought but life including making and drinking tea had. TAKENO Jouo developed Shuko's idea, and SEN Rikyu finally established the foundation of Chado, or tea ceremony in the sixteenth century.

The basic idea of Chado, or tea ceremony, which Rikyu mentioned about, is expressed by four Chinese characters, WA, KEI, SEI, and JAKU. WA means harmony, KEI means respect, SEI means purity, and JAKU means tranquillity. Harmony can be formed among all matters in the world such as people, flowers, tea bowls, and so on. In fact, in a tea gathering, people talk to each other and to every piece of equipment a host uses in silence to form harmony in a tea room. People must respect all matters without their status; that is, people must not discriminate. For example, people use a crawl-through doorway to enter a tea room, so even a person who has a high social status has to lower his or her head to enter in although he usually lower his head. Purifying spirits is very important since the ideal spirit of the ceremony is a sort of religious mind. Then, after people can get the three ideas, harmony, respect, and purity, people can finally embody tranquillity. Rikyu thought that we could reach tranquillity in the mind after we achieved harmony, respect, and purity.

Some people say that tea ceremony is a performance after they see a presentation of the ceremony; however, so called tea ceremony is not a performance, nor a ceremony. In fact, SEN Soshitsu XV, the fifteenth-generation blood descendant of SEN Rikyu, now calls it the Way of Tea in English, not tea ceremony anymore. Walking the way of tea is not easy because the way of tea is life which people seek to tranquillity through harmony, respect, and purity.


Sen, S. XV (1984). Urasenke: Guide for the Way of Tea. Japan: Shufu no Tomo Sha.

Kuwata, T. (1979). History of Chado. Japan: Kodan-Sha.

The Editorial Office, Tanko-Sha (Eds.). (1993). English for Use in "The Way of Tea". Japan:


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Last Updated: 02/07/02
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