The Shape of Tea

There’s a nice article about an exhibition currently being held in Duxbury, Massachussetts (USA): Harmony, respect, purity, tranquility – Art Complex Museum tea exhibit offers a taste of Japan. It has a sensitive and detailed take on the exhibition, as well as giving an informative historical overview of the Japanese tea ceremony. Although the article only touches on kimono, the tea ceremony is of course one of the events to which kimono are worn, and much of the symbolism is shared.

A tea ceremony is intended to convey four Zen principles – harmony, respect, purity and tranquility. Utensils are props embodying one or more of those principles. At specific intervals within the ceremony each guest in turn speaks about the objects and the principles they exemplify.

Beyond their functional role in preparing and serving tea, these utensils assist participants to meditate more successfully and to vocalize the four principles.

The combination of a charcoal brazier and the kettle resting within it at July’s station radiates harmony and tranquility. A beautiful harmony is produced between varied browns of the bronze brazier and the mid-range brown of the kettle. At the same time, there is pleasing contrast of textures between the pitted iron of the kettle and polished sheen of the brazier. As a guest mediates on the harmony of these two objects, he finds himself enveloped into that harmony.

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