The Book of Tea: Illustrated Classic Edition

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9780804832199: The Book of Tea: Illustrated Classic Edition
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Written in 1906 by a future philosopher, curator and Zen teacher, this book, which was intended to be read aloud in a famous salon, interweaves the history of tea with Japanese society. It also contains essays on spirituality, poetry and art.

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Review:

That a nation should construct one of its most resonant national ceremonies round a cup of tea will surely strike a chord of sympathy with at least some readers of this review. To many foreigners, nothing is so quintessentially Japanese as the tea ceremony--more properly, "the way of tea"--with its austerity, its extravagantly minimalist stylisation and its concentration of extreme subtleties of meaning into the simplest of actions. The Book of Tea is something of a curiosity: written in English by a Japanese scholar (and issued here in bilingual form) it was first published in 1906, in the wake of the naval victory over Russia with which Japan asserted its rapidly-acquired status as a world-class military power. It was a peak moment of Westernisation within Japan. Clearly, behind the publication was an agenda, or at least a mission to explain. Around its account of the ceremony The Book of Tea folds an explication of the philosophy, first Taoist, later Zen Buddhist, that informs its oblique celebration of simplicity and directness--what Okakura calls, in a telling phrase, "moral geometry". And the ceremony itself? Its greatest practitioners have always been philosophers, but also artists, connoisseurs, collectors, gardeners, calligraphers, gourmets, flower-arrangers. The greatest of them, Sen Rikyu, left a teasingly, maddeningly simple set of rules: "Make a delicious bowl of tea; lay the charcoal so that it heats the water; arrange the flowers as they are in the field; in summer suggest coolness; in winter, warmth; do everything ahead of time; prepare for rain; and give those with whom you find yourself every consideration." A disciple remarked that this seemed elementary. Rikyu replied, "Then if you can host a tea gathering without deviating from any of the rules I have just stated, I will become your disciple." A Zen reply. Fascinating. -- Robin Davidson

About the Author:

About the Author:

"Okakura Kakuzo (February 14, 1863 - September 2, 1913; also known as Okakura Tenshin) was a Japanese scholar who contributed the development of arts in Japan. Outside Japan, he is chiefly remembered today as the author of The Book of Tea.

Born in Yokohama to parents originally from Fukui, he attended Tokyo Imperial University, where he first met and studied under Ernest Fenollosa. In 1890, Okakura was one of the principal founders of the first Japanese fine-arts academy, Tokyo bijutsu gakko (Tokyo School of Fine Arts) and a year later became the head, though he was later ousted from the school in an administrative struggle. Later, he also founded Nihon Bijutsuin (Japan Institute of Fine Arts) with Hashimoto Gahu and Yokoyama Taikan. He was invited by William Sturgis Bigelow to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1904 and became the first head of the Asian art division in 1910." (Quote from wikipedia.org)

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