The Book of Tea

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Our god is great, and money is his Prophet! We devastate nature in order to make sacrifice to him. We boast that we have conquered Matter and forget that it is Matter that has enslaved us. What atrocities do we not perpetrate in the name of culture and refinement! Vacuum is all potent because all containing. In vacuum alone motion becomes possible. One who could make of himself a vacuum into which others might freely enter would become master of all situations.

The whole can always dominate the part. It is on the whole a very enlightening read on many subjects, all of them centered around tea and its many abilities. It is hygiene, for it enforces cleanliness; it is economics, for it shows comfort in simplicity rather than in the complex and costly; it is moral geometry, inasmuch as it defines our sense of proportion to the universe.

Even if you are an avid coffee drinker and would never dare look upon a cup of tea, then you will learn a thing or two from this. View all 7 comments. First published in , this classic work written in English having only seven short chapters is something rare and essential to those interested in Japanese culture. Moreover, it is essential since reading this book would broaden our understanding on how and why tea in Japan has long First published in , this classic work written in English having only seven short chapters is something rare and essential to those interested in Japanese culture.

Moreover, it is essential since reading this book would broaden our understanding on how and why tea in Japan has long been appreciatively admired, consumed and treasured. When I read Chapter 1 The Cup of Humanity 8 pages , Mr Okakura has impressively amazed me as a well-read writer due to his writing scope concerning Dr Samuel Johnson, the great lexicographer, whose tea consumption was legendarily recorded.

It is alluded to in the classics under the various names of Tou, Tseh, Chung, Kha, and Ming, and was highly prized for possessing the virtues of relieving fatigue, delighting the soul, strengthening the will, and repairing the eyesight. The Taoists claimed it as an important ingredient of the elixir of mortality.

The Buddhists used it extensively to prevent drowsiness during their long hours of meditation. The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration, -- all the wrong of life passes away through my pores. At the fifth cup I am purified; the sixth cup calls me to the realms of immortals. The seventh cup — ah, but I could take no more! I only feel the breath of cool wind that rises in my sleeves. Where is Horaisan? Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither. View all 12 comments. The book is philosophical in tone, covers not just tea, but a bit of history, culture, and religion.

The Cake-tea is roasted before the fire until it becomes soft like a baby's arm O nectar! Okakura writes poignantly of his feelings of disdain for the wanton waste among western communities with the number of flowers cut daily to adorn ballrooms, banquet tables etc. Tomorrow a ruthless hand will close around your throats. Dec 02, Banzai rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: Artists, Buddhists, Teaists, and any other kind of "ist" that loves beauty. Okakura Kakuzo writes that he is "not a polite teaist. In the Book of Tea, he more or less shames the world, in particular his own countrymen, for subscribing to Western aesthetics.

He also makes it clear how he feels about said aesthetics and the junk art coming out of the cluttered, cheap and materialistic culture of 19th century Europe and America. That said, I didn't like this book because I'm a self-deprecating whitey. I liked this book first and foremost because it's pretty! I might have been ashamed to list that as my number one appeal, but after reading the book I'm quite proud. As far as books go, this one is the perfect size, looking lovely on my bedside table whether open, closed, or in the romantic cardboard sleeve it came in.

Second, for the inky portrait of Okakura Kakuzo in the front. He's looking off to the distance, lifting a cigarette to his jaw like some Confucian Marlboro man. The portrait says in eight thousand ways what an introduction couldn't about the opium-induced ire I'm about to launch into. Third, because any aestheticist does things in threes or fives for passages such as these, where he is so irritated at the violent, soul-less populace for leaving the minimalist ritual of his romanticized East, he forgoes talking to the reader entirely and chooses to address the flowers instead: "Tell me, gentle flowers, teardrops of the stars, standing in the garden, nodding your heads to the bees as they sing of the dews and the sunbeams, are you aware of the fearful doom that awaits you?

And yes, you do learn about tea. Take it from me and don't try to wrap your brain around dates and key figures in Asiatic history. Choose, instead, to transcend the words and embrace the lyrical nature of the lesson intended. This is an exquisite little cultural history of Japan centred around the tea ceremony and a philosophy of "teaism" which includes elements of Zen and Taoism. It's also a work of art and design philosophy which especially falls into place on realising it was written in the wake of the Western aesthetic movement of the late nineteenth century.

The Book of Tea was first published in The Japanese perspective described here seems to unite, or else trace a middle way between, the opposition of This is an exquisite little cultural history of Japan centred around the tea ceremony and a philosophy of "teaism" which includes elements of Zen and Taoism. The Japanese perspective described here seems to unite, or else trace a middle way between, the opposition of "artificial" and "natural": nature is here preferred and described as such, but it is a vision of nature honed by human intervention: coloured autumn leaves scattered on a swept path; a single perfect flower in a vase.

This was written at a time when the West still knew little about Japanese culture but the author a Japanese scholar who emigrated to Boston and wrote in English points out that one aspect had taken hold: a less formal adaptation of the tea ceremony. I had almost forgotten the idea, but the preparation and role of tea does retain a ritualistic aspect even in mundane contexts. Unless perhaps it's from, as Douglas Adams described, "a machine which provide[s] a plastic cup filled with a liquid I've ended up with a Project Gutenberg version of the book via a cheap Kindle purchase.

This lovely little work deserves better, although academic editions - with the introduction and notes from which it must benefit - don't seem to be easy to find here. Now, one with the background material and illustrations would be just gorgeous. A really fascinating little collection of essays, dealing with Japanese culture at the turn of the twentieth-century, especially the tea ceremony and the culture and philosophy that springs from it. I found this really interesting and readable, although possibly more enjoyable if you have vague background knowledge of Japanese and Chinese history and schools of philosophy.

May 29, Lubinka Dimitrova rated it liked it Shelves: have-books-will-travel , meh , philosophy-religion , modern-classics , audio , general-non-fiction , life-s-too-short-for-novels , male-author , not-my-cup-of-tea. I suppose, some books will speak to you, and some won't but in this particular case the author's cringe-worthy comments regarding the Occident's weltanschauung put me off from the very beginning.

There were some mildly interesting passages later on, but all in all, this book was not exactly my cup of tea.


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Still searching for a readable book about tea. What a beautiful book. It's amazing to see what changes in this world, and also what stays the same. Then today by total coincidence one of my students hands me a page she wrote for me about Chado the tea ceremony and the end of is says "I hope that this answer will encourage you to open the door to Chado lea What a beautiful book. Then today by total coincidence one of my students hands me a page she wrote for me about Chado the tea ceremony and the end of is says "I hope that this answer will encourage you to open the door to Chado leading you to 'Peacefulness though a bowl of Tea'.

I was waaay freaked out! Anyway, when I told my mom about it, she mentioned this book. I think I may have read it but it feels significant to read it again, now. I normally recommend towards the end of my reviews, but this time I recommend to read it in the beginning. Ill say, read it asap, its a small book won't take much time to finish. I have always liked Japanese writing, it has a natural flow and its minimalistic which is the best part. Here the author tells us about Tea, don't get confused by the name it has much more than just tea, it takes a stand on everything. It has so much to give you, life lessons, art lessons, everything you need to know.

W I normally recommend towards the end of my reviews, but this time I recommend to read it in the beginning. We are given a glimpse of the importance of the things of everyday life and how they should be approached, also we get both an education in tea-making and architecture. This book is timeless, written then, it still makes sense.

I am going to re-read this for life lessons. Ill again very highly recommend this book, its an amazing read do not miss this. Happy Reading! Mar 26, Jack rated it liked it Shelves: 20th-century , japan , non-fiction. Okakura asks 'When will the West understand, or try to understand, the East? Okakura gives a sort of Pan-Asian outline of the aesthetics and philosophy that surround the simple act of tea-drinking, but his lasting achievement - and perhaps this was his intent all along - is to hint at the absolute gulf, the void of knowledge that even a decently culturally-educated person such as myself, if I can be Okakura asks 'When will the West understand, or try to understand, the East?

Okakura gives a sort of Pan-Asian outline of the aesthetics and philosophy that surround the simple act of tea-drinking, but his lasting achievement - and perhaps this was his intent all along - is to hint at the absolute gulf, the void of knowledge that even a decently culturally-educated person such as myself, if I can be so inclined to call myself, having read this essential author and that classic novel, has of Oriental history and culture.

Globalised capitalism may have smoothed out some of the differences that encapsulate the East-West divide, but that is an anomaly not even a century old. Difference survives, it still reigns.

The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura

Or so I presume. When I move to Japan in just under two months' time, perhaps I will have been so totally acclimatised and receptive of my new environment it will hardly seem different to Ireland at all. Different people, different language, but not remarkably so, once one is past the obvious. Part of me feels unready to go anywhere too different, and hopes settling in is not so difficult; another part seeks out the difference, wishes to embrace it fully, and would be disappointed by what is mundane and ordinary.


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  • The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura – review.

Until I move, I can't say do much more than ruminate on the subject. The East, huh. That which is not West. I'm not one to make grandiose sweeping remarks on Western civilisation, perhaps because it is not a very Irish thing to do. Read 19th and earlyth century philosophers and writers and one will think Western civilisation is a very European thing to make grand personal remarks about. Read the dross of political forums or comment spaces online and one will think Western civilisation is a very right-wing American thing to make grand personal remarks about.

The West isn't for me, I don't speak for it, unless it's the West of Ireland, for which I have my own troubles with, but is certainly an area of cultural geography I am more equipped to speak authoritatively about. And if I can say little of the West, what then of the East? Okakura is comfortable and confident in his ability to sketch something definably Eastern from an abridged history of a drink. He's a good writer - I wish I had learnt to write in such a way that I could throw out a word like 'fain' and make it natural.

Such a remark could only be ironic now. The polemical nature of The Book of Tea is something I haven't totally formed an opinion on. Okakura is writing to encourage Westerners to develop an interest in Asian art and philosophy, a request that comes with its own complexities today.

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Okakura was writing against an implicit prejudice in that which was non-Western. I read him acutely aware of an instinct to romanticise my destination. I want my life to change, significantly. Will I begin studying typical Eastern customs and quickly adopt them as my own? What would I be discarding, to do so? Would it be sincere? Can it be sincere for someone like me to become a Taoist or a Teaist or a Zen Buddhist, to read Genji monogatari in the original, to try writing haiku?

Would there not be something essentially shallow and tacky and trivial in doing so? I'm moving to Japan, and a little cultural conservative inside me says I shouldn't, because I can only be Irish and know Ireland, and reminds me that Americans try to read Ulysses , that so much is lost in translation from English to English.

I wonder if I'll be flicking through this book again in a few months' time. I wonder, I wonder. This short book really made me think about the Western emphasis on the novel and faddish at the expense of the tried and true. Naturally, there is a middle ground between hidebound traditionalism and perpetual upheaval; the problem, of course, is determining where that sweet spot should reside.

I was completely unfamiliar with both this treatise and Okakura, and The Book of Tea impelled me to find out more about the art historian Okakura, his mentor Ernest Fenollosa and various others who interacted with them in Tokyo and Boston. I never realized that it was Fenollosa and Okakura who introduced Japanese art to the Western world. I definitely want to know more about Okakura and read more by him.

This book is free in the Kindle format, but it would be well worth it if I had had to pay. Feb 27, Fergus Murray rated it it was amazing Shelves: tea. Kakuzo Okakura's The Book of Tea is a sixty-five-page classic which is as much about Eastern patterns of thought as it is about the history and traditions of tea drinking. We are introduced to Teaism chado , the philosophy of life and tea-drinking that emerged in 15th century Japan as a hot-drink-focused variation on or aspect of Zen Buddhism, which itself came out of the mingling of Taoism with the teachings of Buddha in southern China.

A particular outlook on life is expressed through the p Kakuzo Okakura's The Book of Tea is a sixty-five-page classic which is as much about Eastern patterns of thought as it is about the history and traditions of tea drinking. A particular outlook on life is expressed through the peaceful appreciation of a cup of tea, and the careful ritualised preparation of the tea and the environment in which it is consumed - both the surroundings themselves, and the atmosphere in which the tea is taken.

The Philosophy of Tea is not mere aestheticism in the ordinary acceptance of the term, for it expresses conjointly with ethics and religion our whole point of view about man and nature. It represents the true spirit of Eastern democracy by making all its votaries aristocrats in taste. With the invasion of the Mongol hordes at the end of the Sung Dynasty, and then the turmoil of the Ming Dynasty, alas, the old ways of tea were forgotten in China; powdered tea gave way to steeped leaves, and the drink lost its religious significance.

Japan, however, fought off the Mongols in , and their traditions of tea drinking were allowed to carry on unhindered - powdered tea, matcha, had been imported in along with Zen Buddhism, and the Tea Ceremony around it had already started evolving. By the 15th century it had reached something very much like its present form, and stopped being seen as a specifically Buddhist thing, although its character and feeling remained more or less intact.

In the rest of the book the author talks some more about the relation between Taoism and Teaism, then goes on to discuss in engaging detail the history and significance of various integral aspects of the Tea Ceremony: we learn about the roles of the tea-room - which should have an air of refined poverty, and be impeccably clean and tidy but never too symmetrical; of art appreciation, which should be approached humbly and with an open mind; and of flowers - to whose honour we owe it to make the most of their beauty, lest their death be in vain.

We learn how each of these came to play the part it does in both the ceremony and in Japanese culture. In the final chapter, we are told of the great Tea-Masters who helped to shape not just the Tea Ceremony but almost every aspect of Japanese cultural life - their art and architecture, gardens and cuisine, customs and clothing. Throughout the text, Okakura's work is peppered with retold myths and historical anecdotes, and informative - if sometimes invective - asides on European and Asian culture.

His style is precise and a little old-fashioned, but informal and eminently readable. It was the same spirit which moved the Empress Komio, one of our most renowned Nara sovereigns, as she sang: "If I pluck thee, my hand will defile thee, O flower! Standing in the meadows as thou art, I offer thee to the Buddhas of the past, of the present, of the future. Reading this book helped me tea 'Tis said that Chowmushih slept in a boat so that his dreams might mingle with those of the lotus. Reading this book helped me tear down a bridge between me and myself, an invisible bridge that posed a hurdle preventing me from seeing the true aesthetic beauty of everything around me no matter how little and insignificant it may seem.

I am truly at peace with myself because of this book. It is the art of seeing beauty in all your surroundings. It is the art of flowers, of nature, of colours, of simplicity, of seeing light within yourself. It is not the seeking of perfection, but realizing that perfection can exist in everything, wherever you look.

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Tell me, gentle flowers, teardrops of the stars, standing in the garden, nodding your heads to the bees as they sing of the dews and the sunbeams, are you aware of the fearful doom that awaits you? Dream on, sway and frolic while you may in the gentle breezes of summer. To- morrow a ruthless hand will close around your throats. When will the West understand, or try to understand, the East?

We Asiatics are often appalled by the curious web of facts and fancies which has been woven concerning us. We are pictured as living on the perfume of the lotus, if not on mice and cockroaches.

The Book of Tea (Audio Book) by Okakura Kakuzo (1863-1913)

He writes about tea, philosophy, religion, architecture, aesthetics, design, history, and lots more in this attempt to explain the East to Westerners. Absolutely beautiful, an incredible essay. Oct 02, Dalia Mahdy rated it liked it. This book does not only describe tea as the hot drink we know and love, it discusses the rituals of tea drinking in Asia along with some cultural and religious aspects of the Japanese life, and is mainly addressed to western audience.

The fact that Okakura was an Japanese immigrant living in Boston with rich art patrons for followers seemed like an early 20th century version of Karate Kid sensibilities: a "wisdom of the East" transmitted to rich whites in poorly translated Daoist quips. This initial impression was much mistaken. The book contains a concise history of the growth of tea in China through the Tang, Sung, and Ming dynasties, and it's arrival and cultivation in Japan.

It provides a terse overview of what the author calls "teaism" through a gloss of both Daoist and Zen philosophies. In his desire to open the American mind to principles found in Japan, Okakura argues that the love of tea is shared, and thus East and West met "in the tea cup.

The Western house, for example, are rooms filled with bric-a-brac becoming little more than cluttered museums meant only to display wealth, not design, intellect, or individuality. The treatment of flowers as momentary fancies of monetary display for the dinning room table, to be thrown out the next day, stands in stark contrast to a quiet moment of flower viewing in a garden, or a select few stems carefully displayed in a place of honor in a room.

In a clear moment of critique Okakura laments: "Our standards of morality are begotten of the past needs of society, but is society to remain always the same? The observance of communal traditions involves a constant sacrifice of the individual to the state. Education, in order to keep up a might delusion, encourages a species of ignorance.

The Book of Tea - Wikipedia

People are not taught to be really virtuous, but to behave properly. We are wicked because we are frightfully self-conscious. We never forgive others because we know we ourselves are in the wrong. We nurse a conscience because we are afraid to tell the truth to ourselves. The novel is a articulate meditation on culture, imperialism, and the politics of domination and resistance. I laughed in the museum, just as Okakura made me laugh today: "There would be further merriment if you were to know all that we [Japan] have imagined and written about you [the White Disaster].

Our writers in the past--the wise men who knew--informed us that you had bushy tails somewhere hidden in your garments, often dined off a fricassee of new-born babes!

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Dec 13, Robert rated it it was amazing Shelves: philosophy , spirituality. This book isn't just about tea; it's more about Zen and aesthetics. I loved the following story: Once in the Ravine of Lungmen stood a Kiri tree, a veritable king of the forest. It reared its head to talk to the stars; its roots struck deep into the earth, mingling their bronzed coils with those of the silver dragon that slept beneath.

And it came to pass that a mighty wizard made of this tree a wondrous harp, whose stubborn spirit should be tamed but by the greatest musicians. For long the inst This book isn't just about tea; it's more about Zen and aesthetics. For long the instrument was treasured by the Emperor of China, but all in vain were the efforts of those who in turn tried to draw melody from its strings. The harp refused to recognize a master. With tender hand he caressed the harp as one might seek to soothe an unruly horse, and softly touched the chords.

He sang of nature and the seasons, of high mountains and flowing waters, and all the memories of the tree awoke! Once more the sweet breath of spring played amidst its branches. The young cataracts, as they danced down the ravine, laughed to the budding flowers, the gentle pattering of rain, the wail of the cuckoo. A tiger roars, - the valley answers again. It is autumn; in the desert night, sharp like a sword gleams the moon upon the frosted grass. Now winter reigns, and through the snow-filled air swirl flocks of swans and rattling hailstones beat upon the boughs with fierce delight.

Then Peiwoh changed the key and sang of love. The forest swayed like an ardent swain deep lost in thought. On high, like a haughty maiden, swept a cloud bright and fair; but passing, trailed long shadows on the ground, black like despair… In ecstasy the Celestial monarch asked Peiwoh wherein lay the secret of his victory.

I left the harp to choose its theme, and knew not truly whether the harp had been Peiwoh or Peiwoh were the harp. Peiwoh represents art and humanity is the harp. We listen to the unspoken, we gaze upon the unseen. Memories long forgotten all come back to us with a new significance. Hopes stifled by fear, yearnings that we dare not recognize, stand forth in new glory…The art lover transcends himself.

Feb 10, Shari rated it it was amazing Shelves: classic , non-fiction. Move aside Coffee for here comes Tea with its loaded history. Never before had I seen a beverage so defended, and so cherished, as in The Book of Tea.

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Okakura's work explores the history, and impact, of tea in the evolution of the Japanese culture. He went to great lengths to present this objective that he had to use coin? He claims that tea permeated the Japanese way of life in his time, and before. If it was so in the 20th century, so it is now. Perhaps much more. You cannot stay a few days in Japan and not drink the stuff. Tea is what you instantly get when you go to most restaurants here. For free! Drink till your tummy bursts and the waiters keep pouring with a smile in their faces. And, you needn't tip them for the trouble.

There isn't a household that hasn't a box, tin, or packet of tea. Supermarkets offer shelves upon shelves of them you'll get dizzy from the selection. And while you can't decide which to buy, the aroma of steeping leaves from a nearby specialty shop tortures you further into indecision. The Japanese love it so much they put it in their soups, sweets, and health supplements.

Some schools give green tea to students. Not to drink, but to gargle to ward off cold. Heck, even Starbucks cannot keep it out of their menus. But that is Tea as a drink. In the Book of Tea, Okakura presents it way beyond its fundamental use. Both share irreverence for tyranny and authoritarianism, and a dislike of that which is forced on one by dictate. The second part gives a mini-history of the development of tea, but soon sows more of the philosophy of tea in what becomes a lead-in to the following chapter.

A couple more choice quotes:. The third part is the core chapter. It discusses the like mind of Taoism and Zen, and how these systems made fertile soil for the growth of Teaism. It is the heart of the book, as it reveals most vividly what Teaism is by explaining the concepts of nothingness and duality. Part IV describes the place in which the tea ceremony takes place. The key points are: The tea room should be small and simple, and emulate a Zen monastery. The entryway should be less than three feet high, so that all—Shogun or shepherd alike—can be reminded of the need for humility.

The first requisite of being a tea master is the ability to sweep and clean. Earlier, Okakura mentions how the most senior monks in a Zen monastery do the most arduous tasks, rather than the novices. This point translates to Teaism. Part VI is where the author goes a little astray in my opinion. She seeks to address the co-development of flower arranging with tea ceremony. She begins by bemoaning the waste of so many flowers—even more-so in the West than the East.

Interestingly, she never bemoans the plucking of tea. She anthropomorphizes flowers—not, apparently, because they are living—but because they are beautiful. She imagines that they must feel the excruciating pain of being wrenched from a stem in a way that a rather lackluster looking tea-bud cannot. She eventually explains how those whose philosophy so despised the destruction of life and beauty came to engage in flower arranging.

The final part tells us about the nature of the tea master—a monk of leaf and beverage, if you will. I recommend giving this thin book a read. I packs a lot of food for thought into a small package. The language is excellent.

The book of tea

The book was originally written in English, and directed toward a Western audience. Hence the extensive defense of Eastern thinking up front. Therefore, there is no worry about getting a particular translation. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account.



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