Modern tea gardens may seem to be a contradiction but since the 15th century the wabi tea ceremony has influenced the tea gardens purpose and design. Originally when tea plants (Camellia sensi) were introduced into Japan from China in the 6th century they were the prerogative of the ruling classes and used expensive ingredients and equipment.
The subsequent simplification was started by Zen monk Shuko Murata. It led to the tea-room’s interior being reduced in space to the bare minimum needed for the contemplation of the relationship between people and things.
Key Features of a Zen Tea House
- As a location for the tea ceremony the core attribute is providing a support for humility. ‘We can’t focus on what is important if our egos get in the way’. Thus the entrance to a tea house is generally so low that you must crawl to pass through it.
- The tea house should provide the best views for meditation.
- The objective is to create a hut that emphasises the rustic and humble.
- The approach to the tea house is through the tea garden. To sharpen the mind and senses the path should consist of a series of detailed views.
- Stepping stones help to slow your pace to a speed suitable for meditation and contemplation.
- Outside the door of the tea room is a stone basin to wash your hands and mouth before the tea ceremony begins.
- There should be a light or lantern to guide you in the dark.
Other Quotes about the Tea Ceremony
- “Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage.” –Katkuzo Okakura
- “The Way of Tea cannot be taught in any book…It is a state of mind. Tea is a living
tradition.” –Professor Kimiko Gunji,
- “Holding a bowl of tea whisked to a fine froth…
Such a simple thing: yet filled with a spirit that
Reaches back more than a thousand years.”–The Urasenke Tradition of Tea
- ‘Show them who wait
Only for flowers
There in the mountain villages:
Grass peeks through the snow,
And with it, spring.’ Fujiwara no letaka