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´╗┐Title: The Book of Tea
Author: Okakura, Kakuzo, 1863-1913
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Book of Tea" ***

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THE BOOK OF TEA

By Kakuzo Okakura



I. The Cup of Humanity


Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage. In China, in the
eighth century, it entered the realm of poetry as one of the polite
amusements. The fifteenth century saw Japan ennoble it into a religion
of aestheticism--Teaism. Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration
of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It
inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the
romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the
Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in
this impossible thing we know as life.

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 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. It
represents the true spirit of Eastern democracy by making all its
votaries aristocrats in taste.

The long isolation of Japan from the rest of the world, so conducive to
introspection, has been highly favourable to the development of
Teaism. Our home and habits, costume and cuisine, porcelain, lacquer,
painting--our very literature--all have been subject to its influence.
No student of Japanese culture could ever ignore its presence. It has
permeated the elegance of noble boudoirs, and entered the abode of
the humble. Our peasants have learned to arrange flowers, our meanest
labourer to offer his salutation to the rocks and waters. In our
common parlance we speak of the man "with no tea" in him, when he is
insusceptible to the serio-comic interests of the personal drama.
Again we stigmatise the untamed aesthete who, regardless of the mundane
tragedy, runs riot in the springtide of emancipated emotions, as one
"with too much tea" in him.

The outsider may indeed wonder at this seeming much ado about nothing.
What a tempest in a tea-cup! he will say. But when we consider how small
after all the cup of human enjoyment is, how soon overflowed with tears,
how easily drained to the dregs in our quenchless thirst for infinity,
we shall not blame ourselves for making so much of the tea-cup. Mankind
has done worse. In the worship of Bacchus, we have sacrificed too
freely; and we have even transfigured the gory image of Mars. Why not
consecrate ourselves to the queen of the Camelias, and revel in the warm
stream of sympathy that flows from her altar? In the liquid amber within
the ivory-porcelain, the initiated may touch the sweet reticence of
Confucius, the piquancy of Laotse, and the ethereal aroma of Sakyamuni
himself.

Those who cannot feel the littleness of great things in themselves are
apt to overlook the greatness of little things in others. The average
Westerner, in his sleek complacency, will see in the tea ceremony but
another instance of the thousand and one oddities which constitute the
quaintness and childishness of the East to him. He was wont to regard
Japan as barbarous while she indulged in the gentle arts of peace: he
calls her civilised since she began to commit wholesale slaughter on
Manchurian battlefields. Much comment has been given lately to the Code
of the Samurai,--the Art of Death which makes our soldiers exult in
self-sacrifice; but scarcely any attention has been drawn to Teaism,
which represents so much of our Art of Life. Fain would we remain
barbarians, if our claim to civilisation were to be based on the
gruesome glory of war. Fain would we await the time when due respect
shall be paid to our art and ideals.

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. It is either
impotent fanaticism or else abject voluptuousness. Indian spirituality
has been derided as ignorance, Chinese sobriety as stupidity, Japanese
patriotism as the result of fatalism. It has been said that we are less
sensible to pain and wounds on account of the callousness of our nervous
organisation!

Why not amuse yourselves at our expense? Asia returns the compliment.
There would be further food for merriment if you were to know all
that we have imagined and written about you. All the glamour of the
perspective is there, all the unconscious homage of wonder, all the
silent resentment of the new and undefined. You have been loaded with
virtues too refined to be envied, and accused of crimes too
picturesque to be condemned. Our writers in the past--the wise men who
knew--informed us that you had bushy tails somewhere hidden in your
garments, and often dined off a fricassee of newborn babes! Nay, we had
something worse against you: we used to think you the most impracticable
people on the earth, for you were said to preach what you never
practiced.

Such misconceptions are fast vanishing amongst us. Commerce has forced
the European tongues on many an Eastern port. Asiatic youths are
flocking to Western colleges for the equipment of modern education.
Our insight does not penetrate your culture deeply, but at least we are
willing to learn. Some of my compatriots have adopted too much of
your customs and too much of your etiquette, in the delusion that the
acquisition of stiff collars and tall silk hats comprised the attainment
of your civilisation. Pathetic and deplorable as such affectations
are, they evince our willingness to approach the West on our knees.
Unfortunately the Western attitude is unfavourable to the understanding
of the East. The Christian missionary goes to impart, but not to
receive. Your information is based on the meagre translations of our
immense literature, if not on the unreliable anecdotes of passing
travellers. It is rarely that the chivalrous pen of a Lafcadio Hearn
or that of the author of "The Web of Indian Life" enlivens the Oriental
darkness with the torch of our own sentiments.

Perhaps I betray my own ignorance of the Tea Cult by being so outspoken.
Its very spirit of politeness exacts that you say what you are expected
to say, and no more. But I am not to be a polite Teaist. So much harm
has been done already by the mutual misunderstanding of the New World
and the Old, that one need not apologise for contributing his tithe
to the furtherance of a better understanding. The beginning of the
twentieth century would have been spared the spectacle of sanguinary
warfare if Russia had condescended to know Japan better. What dire
consequences to humanity lie in the contemptuous ignoring of Eastern
problems! European imperialism, which does not disdain to raise the
absurd cry of the Yellow Peril, fails to realise that Asia may also
awaken to the cruel sense of the White Disaster. You may laugh at us for
having "too much tea," but may we not suspect that you of the West have
"no tea" in your constitution?

Let us stop the continents from hurling epigrams at each other, and be
sadder if not wiser by the mutual gain of half a hemisphere. We have
developed along different lines, but there is no reason why one should
not supplement the other. You have gained expansion at the cost
of restlessness; we have created a harmony which is weak against
aggression. Will you believe it?--the East is better off in some
respects than the West!

Strangely enough humanity has so far met in the tea-cup. It is the only
Asiatic ceremonial which commands universal esteem. The white man has
scoffed at our religion and our morals, but has accepted the brown
beverage without hesitation. The afternoon tea is now an important
function in Western society. In the delicate clatter of trays and
saucers, in the soft rustle of feminine hospitality, in the common
catechism about cream and sugar, we know that the Worship of Tea is
established beyond question. The philosophic resignation of the guest
to the fate awaiting him in the dubious decoction proclaims that in this
single instance the Oriental spirit reigns supreme.

The earliest record of tea in European writing is said to be found in
the statement of an Arabian traveller, that after the year 879 the main
sources of revenue in Canton were the duties on salt and tea. Marco Polo
records the deposition of a Chinese minister of finance in 1285 for his
arbitrary augmentation of the tea-taxes. It was at the period of the
great discoveries that the European people began to know more about
the extreme Orient. At the end of the sixteenth century the Hollanders
brought the news that a pleasant drink was made in the East from the
leaves of a bush. The travellers Giovanni Batista Ramusio (1559), L.
Almeida (1576), Maffeno (1588), Tareira (1610), also mentioned tea. In
the last-named year ships of the Dutch East India Company brought the
first tea into Europe. It was known in France in 1636, and reached
Russia in 1638. England welcomed it in 1650 and spoke of it as "That
excellent and by all physicians approved China drink, called by the
Chineans Tcha, and by other nations Tay, alias Tee."

Like all good things of the world, the propaganda of Tea met with
opposition. Heretics like Henry Saville (1678) denounced drinking it as
a filthy custom. Jonas Hanway (Essay on Tea, 1756) said that men seemed
to lose their stature and comeliness, women their beauty through the
use of tea. Its cost at the start (about fifteen or sixteen shillings
a pound) forbade popular consumption, and made it "regalia for high
treatments and entertainments, presents being made thereof to princes
and grandees." Yet in spite of such drawbacks tea-drinking spread with
marvelous rapidity. The coffee-houses of London in the early half of the
eighteenth century became, in fact, tea-houses, the resort of wits like
Addison and Steele, who beguiled themselves over their "dish of tea."
The beverage soon became a necessity of life--a taxable matter. We are
reminded in this connection what an important part it plays in modern
history. Colonial America resigned herself to oppression until human
endurance gave way before the heavy duties laid on Tea. American
independence dates from the throwing of tea-chests into Boston harbour.

There is a subtle charm in the taste of tea which makes it irresistible
and capable of idealisation. Western humourists were not slow to mingle
the fragrance of their thought with its aroma. It has not the arrogance
of wine, the self-consciousness of coffee, nor the simpering innocence
of cocoa. Already in 1711, says the Spectator: "I would therefore in a
particular manner recommend these my speculations to all well-regulated
families that set apart an hour every morning for tea, bread and butter;
and would earnestly advise them for their good to order this paper to
be punctually served up and to be looked upon as a part of the
tea-equipage." Samuel Johnson draws his own portrait as "a hardened and
shameless tea drinker, who for twenty years diluted his meals with only
the infusion of the fascinating plant; who with tea amused the evening,
with tea solaced the midnight, and with tea welcomed the morning."

Charles Lamb, a professed devotee, sounded the true note of Teaism when
he wrote that the greatest pleasure he knew was to do a good action by
stealth, and to have it found out by accident. For Teaism is the art of
concealing beauty that you may discover it, of suggesting what you dare
not reveal. It is the noble secret of laughing at yourself, calmly yet
thoroughly, and is thus humour itself,--the smile of philosophy. All
genuine humourists may in this sense be called tea-philosophers,
Thackeray, for instance, and of course, Shakespeare. The poets of the
Decadence (when was not the world in decadence?), in their protests
against materialism, have, to a certain extent, also opened the way to
Teaism. Perhaps nowadays it is our demure contemplation of the Imperfect
that the West and the East can meet in mutual consolation.

The Taoists relate that at the great beginning of the No-Beginning,
Spirit and Matter met in mortal combat. At last the Yellow Emperor, the
Sun of Heaven, triumphed over Shuhyung, the demon of darkness and earth.
The Titan, in his death agony, struck his head against the solar vault
and shivered the blue dome of jade into fragments. The stars lost their
nests, the moon wandered aimlessly among the wild chasms of the night.
In despair the Yellow Emperor sought far and wide for the repairer of
the Heavens. He had not to search in vain. Out of the Eastern sea rose a
queen, the divine Niuka, horn-crowned and dragon-tailed, resplendent
in her armor of fire. She welded the five-coloured rainbow in her magic
cauldron and rebuilt the Chinese sky. But it is told that Niuka forgot
to fill two tiny crevices in the blue firmament. Thus began the dualism
of love--two souls rolling through space and never at rest until they
join together to complete the universe. Everyone has to build anew his
sky of hope and peace.

The heaven of modern humanity is indeed shattered in the Cyclopean
struggle for wealth and power. The world is groping in the shadow of
egotism and vulgarity. Knowledge is bought through a bad conscience,
benevolence practiced for the sake of utility. The East and the West,
like two dragons tossed in a sea of ferment, in vain strive to
regain the jewel of life. We need a Niuka again to repair the grand
devastation; we await the great Avatar. Meanwhile, let us have a sip of
tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are
bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle.
Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of
things.



II. The Schools of Tea.


Tea is a work of art and needs a master hand to bring out its
noblest qualities. We have good and bad tea, as we have good and bad
paintings--generally the latter. There is no single recipe for making
the perfect tea, as there are no rules for producing a Titian or a
Sesson. Each preparation of the leaves has its individuality, its
special affinity with water and heat, its own method of telling a story.
The truly beautiful must always be in it. How much do we not suffer
through the constant failure of society to recognise this simple and
fundamental law of art and life; Lichilai, a Sung poet, has sadly
remarked that there were three most deplorable things in the world: the
spoiling of fine youths through false education, the degradation of fine
art through vulgar admiration, and the utter waste of fine tea through
incompetent manipulation.

Like Art, Tea has its periods and its schools. Its evolution may be
roughly divided into three main stages: the Boiled Tea, the Whipped Tea,
and the Steeped Tea. We moderns belong to the last school. These several
methods of appreciating the beverage are indicative of the spirit of the
age in which they prevailed. For life is an expression, our unconscious
actions the constant betrayal of our innermost thought. Confucius said
that "man hideth not." Perhaps we reveal ourselves too much in small
things because we have so little of the great to conceal. The tiny
incidents of daily routine are as much a commentary of racial ideals as
the highest flight of philosophy or poetry. Even as the difference in
favorite vintage marks the separate idiosyncrasies of different periods
and nationalities of Europe, so the Tea-ideals characterise the
various moods of Oriental culture. The Cake-tea which was boiled, the
Powdered-tea which was whipped, the Leaf-tea which was steeped, mark
the distinct emotional impulses of the Tang, the Sung, and the Ming
dynasties of China. If we were inclined to borrow the much-abused
terminology of art-classification, we might designate them respectively,
the Classic, the Romantic, and the Naturalistic schools of Tea.

The tea-plant, a native of southern China, was known from very early
times to Chinese botany and medicine. 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.
It was not only administered as an internal dose, but often applied
externally in form of paste to alleviate rheumatic pains. The Taoists
claimed it as an important ingredient of the elixir of immortality. The
Buddhists used it extensively to prevent drowsiness during their long
hours of meditation.

By the fourth and fifth centuries Tea became a favourite beverage among
the inhabitants of the Yangtse-Kiang valley. It was about this time that
modern ideograph Cha was coined, evidently a corruption of the classic
Tou. The poets of the southern dynasties have left some fragments of
their fervent adoration of the "froth of the liquid jade." Then emperors
used to bestow some rare preparation of the leaves on their high
ministers as a reward for eminent services. Yet the method of drinking
tea at this stage was primitive in the extreme. The leaves were steamed,
crushed in a mortar, made into a cake, and boiled together with rice,
ginger, salt, orange peel, spices, milk, and sometimes with onions!
The custom obtains at the present day among the Thibetans and various
Mongolian tribes, who make a curious syrup of these ingredients. The
use of lemon slices by the Russians, who learned to take tea from the
Chinese caravansaries, points to the survival of the ancient method.

It needed the genius of the Tang dynasty to emancipate Tea from its
crude state and lead to its final idealization. With Luwuh in the middle
of the eighth century we have our first apostle of tea. He was born
in an age when Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism were seeking mutual
synthesis. The pantheistic symbolism of the time was urging one to
mirror the Universal in the Particular. Luwuh, a poet, saw in the
Tea-service the same harmony and order which reigned through all things.
In his celebrated work, the "Chaking" (The Holy Scripture of Tea) he
formulated the Code of Tea. He has since been worshipped as the tutelary
god of the Chinese tea merchants.

The "Chaking" consists of three volumes and ten chapters. In the first
chapter Luwuh treats of the nature of the tea-plant, in the second of
the implements for gathering the leaves, in the third of the selection
of the leaves. According to him the best quality of the leaves must have
"creases like the leathern boot of Tartar horsemen, curl like the dewlap
of a mighty bullock, unfold like a mist rising out of a ravine, gleam
like a lake touched by a zephyr, and be wet and soft like fine earth
newly swept by rain."

The fourth chapter is devoted to the enumeration and description of
the twenty-four members of the tea-equipage, beginning with the tripod
brazier and ending with the bamboo cabinet for containing all these
utensils. Here we notice Luwuh's predilection for Taoist symbolism. Also
it is interesting to observe in this connection the influence of tea
on Chinese ceramics. The Celestial porcelain, as is well known, had
its origin in an attempt to reproduce the exquisite shade of jade,
resulting, in the Tang dynasty, in the blue glaze of the south, and the
white glaze of the north. Luwuh considered the blue as the ideal colour
for the tea-cup, as it lent additional greenness to the beverage,
whereas the white made it look pinkish and distasteful. It was because
he used cake-tea. Later on, when the tea masters of Sung took to the
powdered tea, they preferred heavy bowls of blue-black and dark brown.
The Mings, with their steeped tea, rejoiced in light ware of white
porcelain.

In the fifth chapter Luwuh describes the method of making tea.
He eliminates all ingredients except salt. He dwells also on the
much-discussed question of the choice of water and the degree of boiling
it. According to him, the mountain spring is the best, the river water
and the spring water come next in the order of excellence. There are
three stages of boiling: the first boil is when the little bubbles
like the eye of fishes swim on the surface; the second boil is when the
bubbles are like crystal beads rolling in a fountain; the third boil
is when the billows surge wildly in the kettle. The Cake-tea is roasted
before the fire until it becomes soft like a baby's arm and is shredded
into powder between pieces of fine paper. Salt is put in the first boil,
the tea in the second. At the third boil, a dipperful of cold water is
poured into the kettle to settle the tea and revive the "youth of the
water." Then the beverage was poured into cups and drunk. O nectar! The
filmy leaflet hung like scaly clouds in a serene sky or floated like
waterlilies on emerald streams. It was of such a beverage that Lotung, a
Tang poet, wrote: "The first cup moistens my lips and throat, the second
cup breaks my loneliness, the third cup searches my barren entrail but
to find therein some five thousand volumes of odd ideographs. 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 the 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."

The remaining chapters of the "Chaking" treat of the vulgarity of the
ordinary methods of tea-drinking, a historical summary of illustrious
tea-drinkers, the famous tea plantations of China, the possible
variations of the tea-service and illustrations of the tea-utensils. The
last is unfortunately lost.

The appearance of the "Chaking" must have created considerable sensation
at the time. Luwuh was befriended by the Emperor Taisung (763-779), and
his fame attracted many followers. Some exquisites were said to have
been able to detect the tea made by Luwuh from that of his disciples.
One mandarin has his name immortalised by his failure to appreciate the
tea of this great master.

In the Sung dynasty the whipped tea came into fashion and created the
second school of Tea. The leaves were ground to fine powder in a small
stone mill, and the preparation was whipped in hot water by a delicate
whisk made of split bamboo. The new process led to some change in the
tea-equipage of Luwuh, as well as in the choice of leaves. Salt was
discarded forever. The enthusiasm of the Sung people for tea knew no
bounds. Epicures vied with each other in discovering new varieties, and
regular tournaments were held to decide their superiority. The Emperor
Kiasung (1101-1124), who was too great an artist to be a well-behaved
monarch, lavished his treasures on the attainment of rare species. He
himself wrote a dissertation on the twenty kinds of tea, among which he
prizes the "white tea" as of the rarest and finest quality.

The tea-ideal of the Sungs differed from the Tangs even as their notion
of life differed. They sought to actualize what their predecessors tried
to symbolise. To the Neo-Confucian mind the cosmic law was not reflected
in the phenomenal world, but the phenomenal world was the cosmic law
itself. Aeons were but moments--Nirvana always within grasp. The Taoist
conception that immortality lay in the eternal change permeated all
their modes of thought. It was the process, not the deed, which was
interesting. It was the completing, not the completion, which was really
vital. Man came thus at once face to face with nature. A new meaning
grew into the art of life. The tea began to be not a poetical pastime,
but one of the methods of self-realisation. Wangyucheng eulogised tea
as "flooding his soul like a direct appeal, that its delicate bitterness
reminded him of the aftertaste of a good counsel." Sotumpa wrote of the
strength of the immaculate purity in tea which defied corruption as a
truly virtuous man. Among the Buddhists, the southern Zen sect, which
incorporated so much of Taoist doctrines, formulated an elaborate ritual
of tea. The monks gathered before the image of Bodhi Dharma and
drank tea out of a single bowl with the profound formality of a holy
sacrament. It was this Zen ritual which finally developed into the
Tea-ceremony of Japan in the fifteenth century.

Unfortunately the sudden outburst of the Mongol tribes in the thirteenth
century which resulted in the devastation and conquest of China under
the barbaric rule of the Yuen Emperors, destroyed all the fruits of
Sung culture. The native dynasty of the Mings which attempted
re-nationalisation in the middle of the fifteenth century was harassed
by internal troubles, and China again fell under the alien rule of the
Manchus in the seventeenth century. Manners and customs changed to leave
no vestige of the former times. The powdered tea is entirely forgotten.
We find a Ming commentator at loss to recall the shape of the tea whisk
mentioned in one of the Sung classics. Tea is now taken by steeping the
leaves in hot water in a bowl or cup. The reason why the Western world
is innocent of the older method of drinking tea is explained by the fact
that Europe knew it only at the close of the Ming dynasty.

To the latter-day Chinese tea is a delicious beverage, but not an ideal.
The long woes of his country have robbed him of the zest for the meaning
of life. He has become modern, that is to say, old and disenchanted. He
has lost that sublime faith in illusions which constitutes the eternal
youth and vigour of the poets and ancients. He is an eclectic and
politely accepts the traditions of the universe. He toys with Nature,
but does not condescend to conquer or worship her. His Leaf-tea is often
wonderful with its flower-like aroma, but the romance of the Tang and
Sung ceremonials are not to be found in his cup.

Japan, which followed closely on the footsteps of Chinese civilisation,
has known the tea in all its three stages. As early as the year 729 we
read of the Emperor Shomu giving tea to one hundred monks at his palace
in Nara. The leaves were probably imported by our ambassadors to the
Tang Court and prepared in the way then in fashion. In 801 the monk
Saicho brought back some seeds and planted them in Yeisan. Many
tea-gardens are heard of in succeeding centuries, as well as the delight
of the aristocracy and priesthood in the beverage. The Sung tea reached
us in 1191 with the return of Yeisai-zenji, who went there to study
the southern Zen school. The new seeds which he carried home were
successfully planted in three places, one of which, the Uji district
near Kioto, bears still the name of producing the best tea in the
world. The southern Zen spread with marvelous rapidity, and with it
the tea-ritual and the tea-ideal of the Sung. By the fifteenth century,
under the patronage of the Shogun, Ashikaga-Voshinasa, the tea
ceremony is fully constituted and made into an independent and secular
performance. Since then Teaism is fully established in Japan. The use
of the steeped tea of the later China is comparatively recent among us,
being only known since the middle of the seventeenth century. It has
replaced the powdered tea in ordinary consumption, though the latter
still continues to hold its place as the tea of teas.

It is in the Japanese tea ceremony that we see the culmination of
tea-ideals. Our successful resistance of the Mongol invasion in 1281
had enabled us to carry on the Sung movement so disastrously cut off in
China itself through the nomadic inroad. Tea with us became more than
an idealisation of the form of drinking; it is a religion of the art of
life. The beverage grew to be an excuse for the worship of purity and
refinement, a sacred function at which the host and guest joined to
produce for that occasion the utmost beatitude of the mundane. The
tea-room was an oasis in the dreary waste of existence where
weary travellers could meet to drink from the common spring of
art-appreciation. The ceremony was an improvised drama whose plot was
woven about the tea, the flowers, and the paintings. Not a colour to
disturb the tone of the room, not a sound to mar the rhythm of things,
not a gesture to obtrude on the harmony, not a word to break the
unity of the surroundings, all movements to be performed simply and
naturally--such were the aims of the tea-ceremony. And strangely enough
it was often successful. A subtle philosophy lay behind it all. Teaism
was Taoism in disguise.



III. Taoism and Zennism


The connection of Zennism with tea is proverbial. We have already
remarked that the tea-ceremony was a development of the Zen ritual. The
name of Laotse, the founder of Taoism, is also intimately associated
with the history of tea. It is written in the Chinese school manual
concerning the origin of habits and customs that the ceremony of
offering tea to a guest began with Kwanyin, a well-known disciple of
Laotse, who first at the gate of the Han Pass presented to the "Old
Philosopher" a cup of the golden elixir. We shall not stop to discuss
the authenticity of such tales, which are valuable, however, as
confirming the early use of the beverage by the Taoists. Our interest
in Taoism and Zennism here lies mainly in those ideas regarding life and
art which are so embodied in what we call Teaism.

It is to be regretted that as yet there appears to be no adequate
presentation of the Taoists and Zen doctrines in any foreign language,
though we have had several laudable attempts.

Translation is always a treason, and as a Ming author observes, can at
its best be only the reverse side of a brocade,--all the threads are
there, but not the subtlety of colour or design. But, after all, what
great doctrine is there which is easy to expound? The ancient sages
never put their teachings in systematic form. They spoke in paradoxes,
for they were afraid of uttering half-truths. They began by talking like
fools and ended by making their hearers wise. Laotse himself, with his
quaint humour, says, "If people of inferior intelligence hear of the
Tao, they laugh immensely. It would not be the Tao unless they laughed
at it."

The Tao literally means a Path. It has been severally translated as
the Way, the Absolute, the Law, Nature, Supreme Reason, the Mode. These
renderings are not incorrect, for the use of the term by the Taoists
differs according to the subject-matter of the inquiry. Laotse himself
spoke of it thus: "There is a thing which is all-containing, which was
born before the existence of Heaven and Earth. How silent! How solitary!
It stands alone and changes not. It revolves without danger to itself
and is the mother of the universe. I do not know its name and so call
it the Path. With reluctance I call it the Infinite. Infinity is
the Fleeting, the Fleeting is the Vanishing, the Vanishing is the
Reverting." The Tao is in the Passage rather than the Path. It is the
spirit of Cosmic Change,--the eternal growth which returns upon itself
to produce new forms. It recoils upon itself like the dragon, the
beloved symbol of the Taoists. It folds and unfolds as do the clouds.
The Tao might be spoken of as the Great Transition. Subjectively it is
the Mood of the Universe. Its Absolute is the Relative.

It should be remembered in the first place that Taoism, like its
legitimate successor Zennism, represents the individualistic trend of
the Southern Chinese mind in contra-distinction to the communism of
Northern China which expressed itself in Confucianism. The Middle
Kingdom is as vast as Europe and has a differentiation of idiosyncrasies
marked by the two great river systems which traverse it. The
Yangtse-Kiang and Hoang-Ho are respectively the Mediterranean and the
Baltic. Even to-day, in spite of centuries of unification, the Southern
Celestial differs in his thoughts and beliefs from his Northern brother
as a member of the Latin race differs from the Teuton. In ancient
days, when communication was even more difficult than at present, and
especially during the feudal period, this difference in thought was
most pronounced. The art and poetry of the one breathes an atmosphere
entirely distinct from that of the other. In Laotse and his followers
and in Kutsugen, the forerunner of the Yangtse-Kiang nature-poets, we
find an idealism quite inconsistent with the prosaic ethical notions of
their contemporary northern writers. Laotse lived five centuries before
the Christian Era.

The germ of Taoist speculation may be found long before the advent
of Laotse, surnamed the Long-Eared. The archaic records of China,
especially the Book of Changes, foreshadow his thought. But the great
respect paid to the laws and customs of that classic period of Chinese
civilisation which culminated with the establishment of the Chow dynasty
in the sixteenth century B.C., kept the development of individualism
in check for a long while, so that it was not until after the
disintegration of the Chow dynasty and the establishment of innumerable
independent kingdoms that it was able to blossom forth in the luxuriance
of free-thought. Laotse and Soshi (Chuangtse) were both Southerners and
the greatest exponents of the New School. On the other hand, Confucius
with his numerous disciples aimed at retaining ancestral conventions.
Taoism cannot be understood without some knowledge of Confucianism and
vice versa.

We have said that the Taoist Absolute was the Relative. In ethics the
Taoist railed at the laws and the moral codes of society, for to
them right and wrong were but relative terms. Definition is always
limitation--the "fixed" and "unchangeless" are but terms expressive of
a stoppage of growth. Said Kuzugen,--"The Sages move the world." 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 the mighty delusion, encourages a species of
ignorance. People are not taught to be really virtuous, but to behave
properly. We are wicked because we are frightfully self-conscious. We
nurse a conscience because we are afraid to tell the truth to others;
we take refuge in pride because we are afraid to tell the truth to
ourselves. How can one be serious with the world when the world itself
is so ridiculous! The spirit of barter is everywhere. Honour and
Chastity! Behold the complacent salesman retailing the Good and True.
One can even buy a so-called Religion, which is really but common
morality sanctified with flowers and music. Rob the Church of her
accessories and what remains behind? Yet the trusts thrive marvelously,
for the prices are absurdly cheap,--a prayer for a ticket to heaven,
a diploma for an honourable citizenship. Hide yourself under a bushel
quickly, for if your real usefulness were known to the world you would
soon be knocked down to the highest bidder by the public auctioneer. Why
do men and women like to advertise themselves so much? Is it not but an
instinct derived from the days of slavery?

The virility of the idea lies not less in its power of breaking through
contemporary thought than in its capacity for dominating subsequent
movements. Taoism was an active power during the Shin dynasty, that
epoch of Chinese unification from which we derive the name China. It
would be interesting had we time to note its influence on contemporary
thinkers, the mathematicians, writers on law and war, the mystics and
alchemists and the later nature-poets of the Yangtse-Kiang. We should
not even ignore those speculators on Reality who doubted whether a white
horse was real because he was white, or because he was solid, nor the
Conversationalists of the Six dynasties who, like the Zen philosophers,
revelled in discussions concerning the Pure and the Abstract. Above all
we should pay homage to Taoism for what it has done toward the formation
of the Celestial character, giving to it a certain capacity for reserve
and refinement as "warm as jade." Chinese history is full of instances
in which the votaries of Taoism, princes and hermits alike, followed
with varied and interesting results the teachings of their creed. The
tale will not be without its quota of instruction and amusement. It will
be rich in anecdotes, allegories, and aphorisms. We would fain be on
speaking terms with the delightful emperor who never died because he had
never lived. We may ride the wind with Liehtse and find it absolutely
quiet because we ourselves are the wind, or dwell in mid-air with the
Aged one of the Hoang-Ho, who lived betwixt Heaven and Earth because
he was subject to neither the one nor the other. Even in that grotesque
apology for Taoism which we find in China at the present day, we can
revel in a wealth of imagery impossible to find in any other cult.

But the chief contribution of Taoism to Asiatic life has been in the
realm of aesthetics. Chinese historians have always spoken of Taoism
as the "art of being in the world," for it deals with the
present--ourselves. It is in us that God meets with Nature, and
yesterday parts from to-morrow. The Present is the moving Infinity,
the legitimate sphere of the Relative. Relativity seeks Adjustment;
Adjustment is Art. The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to
our surroundings. Taoism accepts the mundane as it is and, unlike the
Confucians or the Buddhists, tries to find beauty in our world of woe
and worry. The Sung allegory of the Three Vinegar Tasters explains
admirably the trend of the three doctrines. Sakyamuni, Confucius, and
Laotse once stood before a jar of vinegar--the emblem of life--and each
dipped in his finger to taste the brew. The matter-of-fact Confucius
found it sour, the Buddha called it bitter, and Laotse pronounced it
sweet.

The Taoists claimed that the comedy of life could be made more
interesting if everyone would preserve the unities. To keep the
proportion of things and give place to others without losing one's own
position was the secret of success in the mundane drama. We must know
the whole play in order to properly act our parts; the conception of
totality must never be lost in that of the individual. This Laotse
illustrates by his favourite metaphor of the Vacuum. He claimed that
only in vacuum lay the truly essential. The reality of a room, for
instance, was to be found in the vacant space enclosed by the roof and
the walls, not in the roof and walls themselves. The usefulness of a
water pitcher dwelt in the emptiness where water might be put, not in
the form of the pitcher or the material of which it was made. 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.

These Taoists' ideas have greatly influenced all our theories of action,
even to those of fencing and wrestling. Jiu-jitsu, the Japanese art of
self-defence, owes its name to a passage in the Tao-teking. In
jiu-jitsu one seeks to draw out and exhaust the enemy's strength by
non-resistance, vacuum, while conserving one's own strength for victory
in the final struggle. In art the importance of the same principle is
illustrated by the value of suggestion. In leaving something unsaid
the beholder is given a chance to complete the idea and thus a great
masterpiece irresistibly rivets your attention until you seem to become
actually a part of it. A vacuum is there for you to enter and fill up
the full measure of your aesthetic emotion.

He who had made himself master of the art of living was the Real man
of the Taoist. At birth he enters the realm of dreams only to awaken
to reality at death. He tempers his own brightness in order to merge
himself into the obscurity of others. He is "reluctant, as one
who crosses a stream in winter; hesitating as one who fears the
neighbourhood; respectful, like a guest; trembling, like ice that is
about to melt; unassuming, like a piece of wood not yet carved; vacant,
like a valley; formless, like troubled waters." To him the three jewels
of life were Pity, Economy, and Modesty.

If now we turn our attention to Zennism we shall find that it emphasises
the teachings of Taoism. Zen is a name derived from the Sanscrit word
Dhyana, which signifies meditation. It claims that through consecrated
meditation may be attained supreme self-realisation. Meditation is one
of the six ways through which Buddhahood may be reached, and the Zen
sectarians affirm that Sakyamuni laid special stress on this method
in his later teachings, handing down the rules to his chief disciple
Kashiapa. According to their tradition Kashiapa, the first Zen
patriarch, imparted the secret to Ananda, who in turn passed it on to
successive patriarchs until it reached Bodhi-Dharma, the twenty-eighth.
Bodhi-Dharma came to Northern China in the early half of the sixth
century and was the first patriarch of Chinese Zen. There is much
uncertainty about the history of these patriarchs and their doctrines.
In its philosophical aspect early Zennism seems to have affinity on one
hand to the Indian Negativism of Nagarjuna and on the other to the Gnan
philosophy formulated by Sancharacharya. The first teaching of Zen as
we know it at the present day must be attributed to the sixth Chinese
patriarch Yeno(637-713), founder of Southern Zen, so-called from the
fact of its predominance in Southern China. He is closely followed by
the great Baso(died 788) who made of Zen a living influence in Celestial
life. Hiakujo(719-814) the pupil of Baso, first instituted the Zen
monastery and established a ritual and regulations for its government.
In the discussions of the Zen school after the time of Baso we find the
play of the Yangtse-Kiang mind causing an accession of native modes of
thought in contrast to the former Indian idealism. Whatever sectarian
pride may assert to the contrary one cannot help being impressed by the
similarity of Southern Zen to the teachings of Laotse and the Taoist
Conversationalists. In the Tao-teking we already find allusions to the
importance of self-concentration and the need of properly regulating the
breath--essential points in the practice of Zen meditation. Some of
the best commentaries on the Book of Laotse have been written by Zen
scholars.

Zennism, like Taoism, is the worship of Relativity. One master defines
Zen as the art of feeling the polar star in the southern sky. Truth can
be reached only through the comprehension of opposites. Again, Zennism,
like Taoism, is a strong advocate of individualism. Nothing is real
except that which concerns the working of our own minds. Yeno, the sixth
patriarch, once saw two monks watching the flag of a pagoda fluttering
in the wind. One said "It is the wind that moves," the other said "It is
the flag that moves"; but Yeno explained to them that the real movement
was neither of the wind nor the flag, but of something within their own
minds. Hiakujo was walking in the forest with a disciple when a hare
scurried off at their approach. "Why does the hare fly from you?" asked
Hiakujo. "Because he is afraid of me," was the answer. "No," said
the master, "it is because you have murderous instinct." The dialogue
recalls that of Soshi (Chaungtse), the Taoist. One day Soshi was walking
on the bank of a river with a friend. "How delightfully the fishes are
enjoying themselves in the water!" exclaimed Soshi. His friend spake
to him thus: "You are not a fish; how do you know that the fishes are
enjoying themselves?" "You are not myself," returned Soshi; "how do you
know that I do not know that the fishes are enjoying themselves?"

Zen was often opposed to the precepts of orthodox Buddhism even as
Taoism was opposed to Confucianism. To the transcendental insight of
the Zen, words were but an incumbrance to thought; the whole sway of
Buddhist scriptures only commentaries on personal speculation. The
followers of Zen aimed at direct communion with the inner nature of
things, regarding their outward accessories only as impediments to a
clear perception of Truth. It was this love of the Abstract that led
the Zen to prefer black and white sketches to the elaborately coloured
paintings of the classic Buddhist School. Some of the Zen even became
iconoclastic as a result of their endeavor to recognise the Buddha in
themselves rather than through images and symbolism. We find Tankawosho
breaking up a wooden statue of Buddha on a wintry day to make a fire.
"What sacrilege!" said the horror-stricken bystander. "I wish to get
the Shali out of the ashes," calmly rejoined the Zen. "But you certainly
will not get Shali from this image!" was the angry retort, to which
Tanka replied, "If I do not, this is certainly not a Buddha and I
am committing no sacrilege." Then he turned to warm himself over the
kindling fire.

A special contribution of Zen to Eastern thought was its recognition of
the mundane as of equal importance with the spiritual. It held that
in the great relation of things there was no distinction of small and
great, an atom possessing equal possibilities with the universe. The
seeker for perfection must discover in his own life the reflection
of the inner light. The organisation of the Zen monastery was very
significant of this point of view. To every member, except the abbot,
was assigned some special work in the caretaking of the monastery, and
curiously enough, to the novices was committed the lighter duties, while
to the most respected and advanced monks were given the more irksome
and menial tasks. Such services formed a part of the Zen discipline
and every least action must be done absolutely perfectly. Thus many a
weighty discussion ensued while weeding the garden, paring a turnip,
or serving tea. The whole ideal of Teaism is a result of this Zen
conception of greatness in the smallest incidents of life. Taoism
furnished the basis for aesthetic ideals, Zennism made them practical.



IV. The Tea-Room


To European architects brought up on the traditions of stone and brick
construction, our Japanese method of building with wood and bamboo seems
scarcely worthy to be ranked as architecture. It is but quite recently
that a competent student of Western architecture has recognised and paid
tribute to the remarkable perfection of our great temples. Such being
the case as regards our classic architecture, we could hardly expect the
outsider to appreciate the subtle beauty of the tea-room, its principles
of construction and decoration being entirely different from those of
the West.

The tea-room (the Sukiya) does not pretend to be other than a mere
cottage--a straw hut, as we call it. The original ideographs for Sukiya
mean the Abode of Fancy. Latterly the various tea-masters substituted
various Chinese characters according to their conception of the
tea-room, and the term Sukiya may signify the Abode of Vacancy or the
Abode of the Unsymmetrical. It is an Abode of Fancy inasmuch as it is an
ephemeral structure built to house a poetic impulse. It is an Abode of
Vacancy inasmuch as it is devoid of ornamentation except for what may
be placed in it to satisfy some aesthetic need of the moment. It is an
Abode of the Unsymmetrical inasmuch as it is consecrated to the worship
of the Imperfect, purposely leaving some thing unfinished for the play
of the imagination to complete. The ideals of Teaism have since the
sixteenth century influenced our architecture to such degree that the
ordinary Japanese interior of the present day, on account of the extreme
simplicity and chasteness of its scheme of decoration, appears to
foreigners almost barren.

The first independent tea-room was the creation of Senno-Soyeki,
commonly known by his later name of Rikiu, the greatest of all
tea-masters, who, in the sixteenth century, under the patronage of
Taiko-Hideyoshi, instituted and brought to a high state of perfection
the formalities of the Tea-ceremony. The proportions of the tea-room had
been previously determined by Jowo--a famous tea-master of the fifteenth
century. The early tea-room consisted merely of a portion of the
ordinary drawing-room partitioned off by screens for the purpose of
the tea-gathering. The portion partitioned off was called the Kakoi
(enclosure), a name still applied to those tea-rooms which are built
into a house and are not independent constructions. The Sukiya consists
of the tea-room proper, designed to accommodate not more than five
persons, a number suggestive of the saying "more than the Graces and
less than the Muses," an anteroom (midsuya) where the tea utensils are
washed and arranged before being brought in, a portico (machiai) in
which the guests wait until they receive the summons to enter the
tea-room, and a garden path (the roji) which connects the machiai with
the tea-room. The tea-room is unimpressive in appearance. It is smaller
than the smallest of Japanese houses, while the materials used in its
construction are intended to give the suggestion of refined poverty.
Yet we must remember that all this is the result of profound artistic
forethought, and that the details have been worked out with care perhaps
even greater than that expended on the building of the richest palaces
and temples. A good tea-room is more costly than an ordinary mansion,
for the selection of its materials, as well as its workmanship, requires
immense care and precision. Indeed, the carpenters employed by the
tea-masters form a distinct and highly honoured class among artisans,
their work being no less delicate than that of the makers of lacquer
cabinets.

The tea-room is not only different from any production of Western
architecture, but also contrasts strongly with the classical
architecture of Japan itself. Our ancient noble edifices, whether
secular or ecclesiastical, were not to be despised even as regards
their mere size. The few that have been spared in the disastrous
conflagrations of centuries are still capable of aweing us by the
grandeur and richness of their decoration. Huge pillars of wood from two
to three feet in diameter and from thirty to forty feet high, supported,
by a complicated network of brackets, the enormous beams which groaned
under the weight of the tile-covered roofs. The material and mode of
construction, though weak against fire, proved itself strong against
earthquakes, and was well suited to the climatic conditions of the
country. In the Golden Hall of Horiuji and the Pagoda of Yakushiji, we
have noteworthy examples of the durability of our wooden architecture.
These buildings have practically stood intact for nearly twelve
centuries. The interior of the old temples and palaces was profusely
decorated. In the Hoodo temple at Uji, dating from the tenth century, we
can still see the elaborate canopy and gilded baldachinos, many-coloured
and inlaid with mirrors and mother-of-pearl, as well as remains of the
paintings and sculpture which formerly covered the walls. Later,
at Nikko and in the Nijo castle in Kyoto, we see structural beauty
sacrificed to a wealth of ornamentation which in colour and exquisite
detail equals the utmost gorgeousness of Arabian or Moorish effort.

The simplicity and purism of the tea-room resulted from emulation of
the Zen monastery. A Zen monastery differs from those of other Buddhist
sects inasmuch as it is meant only to be a dwelling place for the monks.
Its chapel is not a place of worship or pilgrimage, but a college
room where the students congregate for discussion and the practice
of meditation. The room is bare except for a central alcove in which,
behind the altar, is a statue of Bodhi Dharma, the founder of the sect,
or of Sakyamuni attended by Kashiapa and Ananda, the two earliest Zen
patriarchs. On the altar, flowers and incense are offered up in the
memory of the great contributions which these sages made to Zen. We
have already said that it was the ritual instituted by the Zen monks
of successively drinking tea out of a bowl before the image of Bodhi
Dharma, which laid the foundations of the tea-ceremony. We might
add here that the altar of the Zen chapel was the prototype of the
Tokonoma,--the place of honour in a Japanese room where paintings and
flowers are placed for the edification of the guests.

All our great tea-masters were students of Zen and attempted to
introduce the spirit of Zennism into the actualities of life. Thus the
room, like the other equipments of the tea-ceremony, reflects many of
the Zen doctrines. The size of the orthodox tea-room, which is four mats
and a half, or ten feet square, is determined by a passage in the Sutra
of Vikramadytia. In that interesting work, Vikramadytia welcomes the
Saint Manjushiri and eighty-four thousand disciples of Buddha in a room
of this size,--an allegory based on the theory of the non-existence of
space to the truly enlightened. Again the roji, the garden path which
leads from the machiai to the tea-room, signified the first stage of
meditation,--the passage into self-illumination. The roji was intended
to break connection with the outside world, and produce a fresh
sensation conducive to the full enjoyment of aestheticism in the
tea-room itself. One who has trodden this garden path cannot fail to
remember how his spirit, as he walked in the twilight of evergreens over
the regular irregularities of the stepping stones, beneath which lay
dried pine needles, and passed beside the moss-covered granite lanterns,
became uplifted above ordinary thoughts. One may be in the midst of a
city, and yet feel as if he were in the forest far away from the dust
and din of civilisation. Great was the ingenuity displayed by the
tea-masters in producing these effects of serenity and purity. The
nature of the sensations to be aroused in passing through the roji
differed with different tea-masters. Some, like Rikiu, aimed at utter
loneliness, and claimed the secret of making a roji was contained in the
ancient ditty:

          "I look beyond;
          Flowers are not,
          Nor tinted leaves.
          On the sea beach
          A solitary cottage stands
          In the waning light
          Of an autumn eve."

Others, like Kobori-Enshiu, sought for a different effect. Enshiu said
the idea of the garden path was to be found in the following verses:

          "A cluster of summer trees,
          A bit of the sea,
          A pale evening moon."

It is not difficult to gather his meaning. He wished to create the
attitude of a newly awakened soul still lingering amid shadowy dreams of
the past, yet bathing in the sweet unconsciousness of a mellow spiritual
light, and yearning for the freedom that lay in the expanse beyond.

Thus prepared the guest will silently approach the sanctuary, and, if
a samurai, will leave his sword on the rack beneath the eaves, the
tea-room being preeminently the house of peace. Then he will bend low
and creep into the room through a small door not more than three feet
in height. This proceeding was incumbent on all guests,--high and low
alike,--and was intended to inculcate humility. The order of precedence
having been mutually agreed upon while resting in the machiai, the
guests one by one will enter noiselessly and take their seats, first
making obeisance to the picture or flower arrangement on the tokonoma.
The host will not enter the room until all the guests have seated
themselves and quiet reigns with nothing to break the silence save the
note of the boiling water in the iron kettle. The kettle sings well, for
pieces of iron are so arranged in the bottom as to produce a peculiar
melody in which one may hear the echoes of a cataract muffled by clouds,
of a distant sea breaking among the rocks, a rainstorm sweeping through
a bamboo forest, or of the soughing of pines on some faraway hill.

Even in the daytime the light in the room is subdued, for the low eaves
of the slanting roof admit but few of the sun's rays. Everything is
sober in tint from the ceiling to the floor; the guests themselves have
carefully chosen garments of unobtrusive colors. The mellowness of age
is over all, everything suggestive of recent acquirement being tabooed
save only the one note of contrast furnished by the bamboo dipper and
the linen napkin, both immaculately white and new. However faded the
tea-room and the tea-equipage may seem, everything is absolutely clean.
Not a particle of dust will be found in the darkest corner, for if any
exists the host is not a tea-master. One of the first requisites of a
tea-master is the knowledge of how to sweep, clean, and wash, for there
is an art in cleaning and dusting. A piece of antique metal work must
not be attacked with the unscrupulous zeal of the Dutch housewife.
Dripping water from a flower vase need not be wiped away, for it may be
suggestive of dew and coolness.

In this connection there is a story of Rikiu which well illustrates the
ideas of cleanliness entertained by the tea-masters. Rikiu was watching
his son Shoan as he swept and watered the garden path. "Not clean
enough," said Rikiu, when Shoan had finished his task, and bade him try
again. After a weary hour the son turned to Rikiu: "Father, there is
nothing more to be done. The steps have been washed for the third time,
the stone lanterns and the trees are well sprinkled with water, moss and
lichens are shining with a fresh verdure; not a twig, not a leaf have I
left on the ground." "Young fool," chided the tea-master, "that is not
the way a garden path should be swept." Saying this, Rikiu stepped into
the garden, shook a tree and scattered over the garden gold and crimson
leaves, scraps of the brocade of autumn! What Rikiu demanded was not
cleanliness alone, but the beautiful and the natural also.

The name, Abode of Fancy, implies a structure created to meet some
individual artistic requirement. The tea-room is made for the tea
master, not the tea-master for the tea-room. It is not intended for
posterity and is therefore ephemeral. The idea that everyone should have
a house of his own is based on an ancient custom of the Japanese race,
Shinto superstition ordaining that every dwelling should be evacuated
on the death of its chief occupant. Perhaps there may have been some
unrealized sanitary reason for this practice. Another early custom
was that a newly built house should be provided for each couple that
married. It is on account of such customs that we find the Imperial
capitals so frequently removed from one site to another in ancient days.
The rebuilding, every twenty years, of Ise Temple, the supreme shrine of
the Sun-Goddess, is an example of one of these ancient rites which still
obtain at the present day. The observance of these customs was only
possible with some form of construction as that furnished by our system
of wooden architecture, easily pulled down, easily built up. A more
lasting style, employing brick and stone, would have rendered migrations
impracticable, as indeed they became when the more stable and massive
wooden construction of China was adopted by us after the Nara period.

With the predominance of Zen individualism in the fifteenth century,
however, the old idea became imbued with a deeper significance as
conceived in connection with the tea-room. Zennism, with the Buddhist
theory of evanescence and its demands for the mastery of spirit over
matter, recognized the house only as a temporary refuge for the body.
The body itself was but as a hut in the wilderness, a flimsy shelter
made by tying together the grasses that grew around,--when these ceased
to be bound together they again became resolved into the original waste.
In the tea-room fugitiveness is suggested in the thatched roof, frailty
in the slender pillars, lightness in the bamboo support, apparent
carelessness in the use of commonplace materials. The eternal is to be
found only in the spirit which, embodied in these simple surroundings,
beautifies them with the subtle light of its refinement.

That the tea-room should be built to suit some individual taste is
an enforcement of the principle of vitality in art. Art, to be fully
appreciated, must be true to contemporaneous life. It is not that we
should ignore the claims of posterity, but that we should seek to enjoy
the present more. It is not that we should disregard the creations
of the past, but that we should try to assimilate them into our
consciousness. Slavish conformity to traditions and formulas fetters the
expression of individuality in architecture. We can but weep over the
senseless imitations of European buildings which one beholds in modern
Japan. We marvel why, among the most progressive Western nations,
architecture should be so devoid of originality, so replete with
repetitions of obsolete styles. Perhaps we are passing through an age of
democratisation in art, while awaiting the rise of some princely master
who shall establish a new dynasty. Would that we loved the ancients
more and copied them less! It has been said that the Greeks were great
because they never drew from the antique.

The term, Abode of Vacancy, besides conveying the Taoist theory of the
all-containing, involves the conception of a continued need of change
in decorative motives. The tea-room is absolutely empty, except for what
may be placed there temporarily to satisfy some aesthetic mood. Some
special art object is brought in for the occasion, and everything else
is selected and arranged to enhance the beauty of the principal theme.
One cannot listen to different pieces of music at the same time, a real
comprehension of the beautiful being possible only through concentration
upon some central motive. Thus it will be seen that the system of
decoration in our tea-rooms is opposed to that which obtains in the
West, where the interior of a house is often converted into a museum.
To a Japanese, accustomed to simplicity of ornamentation and frequent
change of decorative method, a Western interior permanently filled with
a vast array of pictures, statuary, and bric-a-brac gives the impression
of mere vulgar display of riches. It calls for a mighty wealth of
appreciation to enjoy the constant sight of even a masterpiece, and
limitless indeed must be the capacity for artistic feeling in those who
can exist day after day in the midst of such confusion of color and form
as is to be often seen in the homes of Europe and America.

The "Abode of the Unsymmetrical" suggests another phase of our
decorative scheme. The absence of symmetry in Japanese art objects has
been often commented on by Western critics. This, also, is a result of
a working out through Zennism of Taoist ideals. Confucianism, with its
deep-seated idea of dualism, and Northern Buddhism with its worship of
a trinity, were in no way opposed to the expression of symmetry. As
a matter of fact, if we study the ancient bronzes of China or the
religious arts of the Tang dynasty and the Nara period, we shall
recognize a constant striving after symmetry. The decoration of our
classical interiors was decidedly regular in its arrangement. The Taoist
and Zen conception of perfection, however, was different. The dynamic
nature of their philosophy laid more stress upon the process through
which perfection was sought than upon perfection itself. True beauty
could be discovered only by one who mentally completed the incomplete.
The virility of life and art lay in its possibilities for growth. In the
tea-room it is left for each guest in imagination to complete the total
effect in relation to himself. Since Zennism has become the prevailing
mode of thought, the art of the extreme Orient has purposefully avoided
the symmetrical as expressing not only completion, but repetition.
Uniformity of design was considered fatal to the freshness of
imagination. Thus, landscapes, birds, and flowers became the favorite
subjects for depiction rather than the human figure, the latter being
present in the person of the beholder himself. We are often too much in
evidence as it is, and in spite of our vanity even self-regard is apt to
become monotonous.

In the tea-room the fear of repetition is a constant presence. The
various objects for the decoration of a room should be so selected that
no colour or design shall be repeated. If you have a living flower, a
painting of flowers is not allowable. If you are using a round kettle,
the water pitcher should be angular. A cup with a black glaze should not
be associated with a tea-caddy of black lacquer. In placing a vase of
an incense burner on the tokonoma, care should be taken not to put it in
the exact centre, lest it divide the space into equal halves. The pillar
of the tokonoma should be of a different kind of wood from the other
pillars, in order to break any suggestion of monotony in the room.

Here again the Japanese method of interior decoration differs from
that of the Occident, where we see objects arrayed symmetrically on
mantelpieces and elsewhere. In Western houses we are often confronted
with what appears to us useless reiteration. We find it trying to talk
to a man while his full-length portrait stares at us from behind his
back. We wonder which is real, he of the picture or he who talks, and
feel a curious conviction that one of them must be fraud. Many a time
have we sat at a festive board contemplating, with a secret shock to our
digestion, the representation of abundance on the dining-room walls.
Why these pictured victims of chase and sport, the elaborate carvings
of fishes and fruit? Why the display of family plates, reminding us of
those who have dined and are dead?

The simplicity of the tea-room and its freedom from vulgarity make it
truly a sanctuary from the vexations of the outer world. There and
there alone one can consecrate himself to undisturbed adoration of the
beautiful. In the sixteenth century the tea-room afforded a welcome
respite from labour to the fierce warriors and statesmen engaged in the
unification and reconstruction of Japan. In the seventeenth century,
after the strict formalism of the Tokugawa rule had been developed, it
offered the only opportunity possible for the free communion of artistic
spirits. Before a great work of art there was no distinction between
daimyo, samurai, and commoner. Nowadays industrialism is making true
refinement more and more difficult all the world over. Do we not need
the tea-room more than ever?



V. Art Appreciation


Have you heard the Taoist tale of the Taming of the Harp?

Once in the hoary ages 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 of musicians. 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.
In response to their utmost strivings there came from the harp but harsh
notes of disdain, ill-according with the songs they fain would sing. The
harp refused to recognise a master.

At last came Peiwoh, the prince of harpists. 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. Anon were heard the dreamy voices of summer with its myriad
insects, the gentle pattering of rain, the wail of the cuckoo. Hark!
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. Again the mode was changed; Peiwoh sang of
war, of clashing steel and trampling steeds. And in the harp arose
the tempest of Lungmen, the dragon rode the lightning, the thundering
avalanche crashed through the hills. In ecstasy the Celestial monarch
asked Peiwoh wherein lay the secret of his victory. "Sire," he replied,
"others have failed because they sang but of themselves. I left the harp
to choose its theme, and knew not truly whether the harp had been Peiwoh
or Peiwoh were the harp."

This story well illustrates the mystery of art appreciation. The
masterpiece is a symphony played upon our finest feelings. True art is
Peiwoh, and we the harp of Lungmen. At the magic touch of the beautiful
the secret chords of our being are awakened, we vibrate and thrill in
response to its call. Mind speaks to mind. We listen to the unspoken,
we gaze upon the unseen. The master calls forth notes we know not of.
Memories long forgotten all come back to us with a new significance.
Hopes stifled by fear, yearnings that we dare not recognise, stand forth
in new glory. Our mind is the canvas on which the artists lay their
colour; their pigments are our emotions; their chiaroscuro the light of
joy, the shadow of sadness. The masterpiece is of ourselves, as we are
of the masterpiece.

The sympathetic communion of minds necessary for art appreciation must
be based on mutual concession. The spectator must cultivate the proper
attitude for receiving the message, as the artist must know how to
impart it. The tea-master, Kobori-Enshiu, himself a daimyo, has left
to us these memorable words: "Approach a great painting as thou wouldst
approach a great prince." In order to understand a masterpiece, you
must lay yourself low before it and await with bated breath its least
utterance. An eminent Sung critic once made a charming confession. Said
he: "In my young days I praised the master whose pictures I liked, but
as my judgement matured I praised myself for liking what the masters had
chosen to have me like." It is to be deplored that so few of us really
take pains to study the moods of the masters. In our stubborn ignorance
we refuse to render them this simple courtesy, and thus often miss the
rich repast of beauty spread before our very eyes. A master has always
something to offer, while we go hungry solely because of our own lack of
appreciation.

To the sympathetic a masterpiece becomes a living reality towards which
we feel drawn in bonds of comradeship. The masters are immortal, for
their loves and fears live in us over and over again. It is rather
the soul than the hand, the man than the technique, which appeals to
us,--the more human the call the deeper is our response. It is because
of this secret understanding between the master and ourselves that
in poetry or romance we suffer and rejoice with the hero and heroine.
Chikamatsu, our Japanese Shakespeare, has laid down as one of the first
principles of dramatic composition the importance of taking the audience
into the confidence of the author. Several of his pupils submitted plays
for his approval, but only one of the pieces appealed to him. It was a
play somewhat resembling the Comedy of Errors, in which twin brethren
suffer through mistaken identity. "This," said Chikamatsu, "has
the proper spirit of the drama, for it takes the audience into
consideration. The public is permitted to know more than the actors. It
knows where the mistake lies, and pities the poor figures on the board
who innocently rush to their fate."

The great masters both of the East and the West never forgot the value
of suggestion as a means for taking the spectator into their confidence.
Who can contemplate a masterpiece without being awed by the immense
vista of thought presented to our consideration? How familiar and
sympathetic are they all; how cold in contrast the modern commonplaces!
In the former we feel the warm outpouring of a man's heart; in the
latter only a formal salute. Engrossed in his technique, the modern
rarely rises above himself. Like the musicians who vainly invoked the
Lungmen harp, he sings only of himself. His works may be nearer science,
but are further from humanity. We have an old saying in Japan that a
woman cannot love a man who is truly vain, for their is no crevice in
his heart for love to enter and fill up. In art vanity is equally fatal
to sympathetic feeling, whether on the part of the artist or the public.

Nothing is more hallowing than the union of kindred spirits in art. At
the moment of meeting, the art lover transcends himself. At once he is
and is not. He catches a glimpse of Infinity, but words cannot voice his
delight, for the eye has no tongue. Freed from the fetters of matter,
his spirit moves in the rhythm of things. It is thus that art becomes
akin to religion and ennobles mankind. It is this which makes a
masterpiece something sacred. In the old days the veneration in
which the Japanese held the work of the great artist was intense. The
tea-masters guarded their treasures with religious secrecy, and it was
often necessary to open a whole series of boxes, one within another,
before reaching the shrine itself--the silken wrapping within whose soft
folds lay the holy of holies. Rarely was the object exposed to view, and
then only to the initiated.

At the time when Teaism was in the ascendency the Taiko's generals would
be better satisfied with the present of a rare work of art than a large
grant of territory as a reward of victory. Many of our favourite dramas
are based on the loss and recovery of a noted masterpiece. For instance,
in one play the palace of Lord Hosokawa, in which was preserved the
celebrated painting of Dharuma by Sesson, suddenly takes fire through
the negligence of the samurai in charge. Resolved at all hazards to
rescue the precious painting, he rushes into the burning building and
seizes the kakemono, only to find all means of exit cut off by the
flames. Thinking only of the picture, he slashes open his body with his
sword, wraps his torn sleeve about the Sesson and plunges it into the
gaping wound. The fire is at last extinguished. Among the smoking embers
is found a half-consumed corpse, within which reposes the treasure
uninjured by the fire. Horrible as such tales are, they illustrate the
great value that we set upon a masterpiece, as well as the devotion of a
trusted samurai.

We must remember, however, that art is of value only to the extent that
it speaks to us. It might be a universal language if we ourselves were
universal in our sympathies. Our finite nature, the power of tradition
and conventionality, as well as our hereditary instincts, restrict the
scope of our capacity for artistic enjoyment. Our very individuality
establishes in one sense a limit to our understanding; and our aesthetic
personality seeks its own affinities in the creations of the past. It is
true that with cultivation our sense of art appreciation broadens,
and we become able to enjoy many hitherto unrecognised expressions of
beauty. But, after all, we see only our own image in the universe,--our
particular idiosyncracies dictate the mode of our perceptions. The
tea-masters collected only objects which fell strictly within the
measure of their individual appreciation.

One is reminded in this connection of a story concerning Kobori-Enshiu.
Enshiu was complimented by his disciples on the admirable taste he had
displayed in the choice of his collection. Said they, "Each piece is
such that no one could help admiring. It shows that you had better taste
than had Rikiu, for his collection could only be appreciated by one
beholder in a thousand." Sorrowfully Enshiu replied: "This only proves
how commonplace I am. The great Rikiu dared to love only those objects
which personally appealed to him, whereas I unconsciously cater to
the taste of the majority. Verily, Rikiu was one in a thousand among
tea-masters."

It is much to be regretted that so much of the apparent enthusiasm
for art at the present day has no foundation in real feeling. In this
democratic age of ours men clamour for what is popularly considered
the best, regardless of their feelings. They want the costly, not
the refined; the fashionable, not the beautiful. To the masses,
contemplation of illustrated periodicals, the worthy product of
their own industrialism, would give more digestible food for artistic
enjoyment than the early Italians or the Ashikaga masters, whom they
pretend to admire. The name of the artist is more important to them than
the quality of the work. As a Chinese critic complained many centuries
ago, "People criticise a picture by their ear." It is this lack of
genuine appreciation that is responsible for the pseudo-classic horrors
that to-day greet us wherever we turn.

Another common mistake is that of confusing art with archaeology. The
veneration born of antiquity is one of the best traits in the human
character, and fain would we have it cultivated to a greater extent. The
old masters are rightly to be honoured for opening the path to future
enlightenment. The mere fact that they have passed unscathed through
centuries of criticism and come down to us still covered with glory
commands our respect. But we should be foolish indeed if we valued their
achievement simply on the score of age. Yet we allow our historical
sympathy to override our aesthetic discrimination. We offer flowers of
approbation when the artist is safely laid in his grave. The nineteenth
century, pregnant with the theory of evolution, has moreover created
in us the habit of losing sight of the individual in the species. A
collector is anxious to acquire specimens to illustrate a period or a
school, and forgets that a single masterpiece can teach us more than any
number of the mediocre products of a given period or school. We classify
too much and enjoy too little. The sacrifice of the aesthetic to the
so-called scientific method of exhibition has been the bane of many
museums.

The claims of contemporary art cannot be ignored in any vital scheme of
life. The art of to-day is that which really belongs to us: it is our
own reflection. In condemning it we but condemn ourselves. We say that
the present age possesses no art:--who is responsible for this? It is
indeed a shame that despite all our rhapsodies about the ancients we pay
so little attention to our own possibilities. Struggling artists, weary
souls lingering in the shadow of cold disdain! In our self-centered
century, what inspiration do we offer them? The past may well look with
pity at the poverty of our civilisation; the future will laugh at the
barrenness of our art. We are destroying the beautiful in life. Would
that some great wizard might from the stem of society shape a mighty
harp whose strings would resound to the touch of genius.



VI. Flowers

In the trembling grey of a spring dawn, when the birds were whispering
in mysterious cadence among the trees, have you not felt that they
were talking to their mates about the flowers? Surely with mankind the
appreciation of flowers must have been coeval with the poetry of love.
Where better than in a flower, sweet in its unconsciousness, fragrant
because of its silence, can we image the unfolding of a virgin soul?
The primeval man in offering the first garland to his maiden thereby
transcended the brute. He became human in thus rising above the crude
necessities of nature. He entered the realm of art when he perceived the
subtle use of the useless.

In joy or sadness, flowers are our constant friends. We eat, drink,
sing, dance, and flirt with them. We wed and christen with flowers. We
dare not die without them. We have worshipped with the lily, we have
meditated with the lotus, we have charged in battle array with the rose
and the chrysanthemum. We have even attempted to speak in the language
of flowers. How could we live without them? It frightens one to conceive
of a world bereft of their presence. What solace do they not bring to
the bedside of the sick, what a light of bliss to the darkness of weary
spirits? Their serene tenderness restores to us our waning confidence
in the universe even as the intent gaze of a beautiful child recalls our
lost hopes. When we are laid low in the dust it is they who linger in
sorrow over our graves.

Sad as it is, we cannot conceal the fact that in spite of our
companionship with flowers we have not risen very far above the brute.
Scratch the sheepskin and the wolf within us will soon show his teeth.
It has been said that a man at ten is an animal, at twenty a lunatic, at
thirty a failure, at forty a fraud, and at fifty a criminal. Perhaps he
becomes a criminal because he has never ceased to be an animal. Nothing
is real to us but hunger, nothing sacred except our own desires. Shrine
after shrine has crumbled before our eyes; but one altar is forever
preserved, that whereon we burn incense to the supreme idol,--ourselves.
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!

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. You will be wrenched,
torn asunder limb by limb, and borne away from your quiet homes. The
wretch, she may be passing fair. She may say how lovely you are while
her fingers are still moist with your blood. Tell me, will this be
kindness? It may be your fate to be imprisoned in the hair of one whom
you know to be heartless or to be thrust into the buttonhole of one who
would not dare to look you in the face were you a man. It may even be
your lot to be confined in some narrow vessel with only stagnant water
to quench the maddening thirst that warns of ebbing life.

Flowers, if you were in the land of the Mikado, you might some time
meet a dread personage armed with scissors and a tiny saw. He would call
himself a Master of Flowers. He would claim the rights of a doctor and
you would instinctively hate him, for you know a doctor always seeks to
prolong the troubles of his victims. He would cut, bend, and twist
you into those impossible positions which he thinks it proper that you
should assume. He would contort your muscles and dislocate your bones
like any osteopath. He would burn you with red-hot coals to stop your
bleeding, and thrust wires into you to assist your circulation. He would
diet you with salt, vinegar, alum, and sometimes, vitriol. Boiling water
would be poured on your feet when you seemed ready to faint. It would
be his boast that he could keep life within you for two or more weeks
longer than would have been possible without his treatment. Would you
not have preferred to have been killed at once when you were first
captured? What were the crimes you must have committed during your past
incarnation to warrant such punishment in this?

The wanton waste of flowers among Western communities is even more
appalling than the way they are treated by Eastern Flower Masters. The
number of flowers cut daily to adorn the ballrooms and banquet-tables of
Europe and America, to be thrown away on the morrow, must be something
enormous; if strung together they might garland a continent. Beside
this utter carelessness of life, the guilt of the Flower-Master becomes
insignificant. He, at least, respects the economy of nature, selects
his victims with careful foresight, and after death does honour to their
remains. In the West the display of flowers seems to be a part of the
pageantry of wealth,--the fancy of a moment. Whither do they all go,
these flowers, when the revelry is over? Nothing is more pitiful than to
see a faded flower remorselessly flung upon a dung heap.

Why were the flowers born so beautiful and yet so hapless? Insects can
sting, and even the meekest of beasts will fight when brought to bay.
The birds whose plumage is sought to deck some bonnet can fly from its
pursuer, the furred animal whose coat you covet for your own may hide
at your approach. Alas! The only flower known to have wings is the
butterfly; all others stand helpless before the destroyer. If they
shriek in their death agony their cry never reaches our hardened ears.
We are ever brutal to those who love and serve us in silence, but the
time may come when, for our cruelty, we shall be deserted by these best
friends of ours. Have you not noticed that the wild flowers are becoming
scarcer every year? It may be that their wise men have told them to
depart till man becomes more human. Perhaps they have migrated to
heaven.

Much may be said in favor of him who cultivates plants. The man of the
pot is far more humane than he of the scissors. We watch with delight
his concern about water and sunshine, his feuds with parasites, his
horror of frosts, his anxiety when the buds come slowly, his rapture
when the leaves attain their lustre. In the East the art of floriculture
is a very ancient one, and the loves of a poet and his favorite plant
have often been recorded in story and song. With the development
of ceramics during the Tang and Sung dynasties we hear of wonderful
receptacles made to hold plants, not pots, but jewelled palaces. A
special attendant was detailed to wait upon each flower and to wash
its leaves with soft brushes made of rabbit hair. It has been written
["Pingtse", by Yuenchunlang] that the peony should be bathed by a
handsome maiden in full costume, that a winter-plum should be watered
by a pale, slender monk. In Japan, one of the most popular of the
No-dances, the Hachinoki, composed during the Ashikaga period, is based
upon the story of an impoverished knight, who, on a freezing night, in
lack of fuel for a fire, cuts his cherished plants in order to entertain
a wandering friar. The friar is in reality no other than Hojo-Tokiyori,
the Haroun-Al-Raschid of our tales, and the sacrifice is not without its
reward. This opera never fails to draw tears from a Tokio audience even
to-day.

Great precautions were taken for the preservation of delicate blossoms.
Emperor Huensung, of the Tang Dynasty, hung tiny golden bells on the
branches in his garden to keep off the birds. He it was who went off in
the springtime with his court musicians to gladden the flowers with soft
music. A quaint tablet, which tradition ascribes to Yoshitsune, the
hero of our Arthurian legends, is still extant in one of the Japanese
monasteries [Sumadera, near Kobe]. It is a notice put up for the
protection of a certain wonderful plum-tree, and appeals to us with
the grim humour of a warlike age. After referring to the beauty of the
blossoms, the inscription says: "Whoever cuts a single branch of this
tree shall forfeit a finger therefor." Would that such laws could
be enforced nowadays against those who wantonly destroy flowers and
mutilate objects of art!

Yet even in the case of pot flowers we are inclined to suspect the
selfishness of man. Why take the plants from their homes and ask them to
bloom mid strange surroundings? Is it not like asking the birds to sing
and mate cooped up in cages? Who knows but that the orchids feel stifled
by the artificial heat in your conservatories and hopelessly long for a
glimpse of their own Southern skies?

The ideal lover of flowers is he who visits them in their native haunts,
like Taoyuenming [all celebrated Chinese poets and philosophers],
who sat before a broken bamboo fence in converse with the wild
chrysanthemum, or Linwosing, losing himself amid mysterious fragrance as
he wandered in the twilight among the plum-blossoms of the Western
Lake. 'Tis said that Chowmushih slept in a boat so that his dreams might
mingle with those of the lotus. 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."

However, let us not be too sentimental. Let us be less luxurious but
more magnificent. Said Laotse: "Heaven and earth are pitiless." Said
Kobodaishi: "Flow, flow, flow, flow, the current of life is ever onward.
Die, die, die, die, death comes to all." Destruction faces us wherever
we turn. Destruction below and above, destruction behind and before.
Change is the only Eternal,--why not as welcome Death as Life? They are
but counterparts one of the other,--The Night and Day of Brahma. Through
the disintegration of the old, re-creation becomes possible. We have
worshipped Death, the relentless goddess of mercy, under many different
names. It was the shadow of the All-devouring that the Gheburs greeted
in the fire. It is the icy purism of the sword-soul before which
Shinto-Japan prostrates herself even to-day. The mystic fire consumes
our weakness, the sacred sword cleaves the bondage of desire. From our
ashes springs the phoenix of celestial hope, out of the freedom comes a
higher realisation of manhood.

Why not destroy flowers if thereby we can evolve new forms ennobling the
world idea? We only ask them to join in our sacrifice to the beautiful.
We shall atone for the deed by consecrating ourselves to Purity and
Simplicity. Thus reasoned the tea-masters when they established the Cult
of Flowers.

Anyone acquainted with the ways of our tea- and flower-masters must have
noticed the religious veneration with which they regard flowers. They
do not cull at random, but carefully select each branch or spray with an
eye to the artistic composition they have in mind. They would be ashamed
should they chance to cut more than were absolutely necessary. It may
be remarked in this connection that they always associate the leaves,
if there be any, with the flower, for the object is to present the whole
beauty of plant life. In this respect, as in many others, their method
differs from that pursued in Western countries. Here we are apt to
see only the flower stems, heads as it were, without body, stuck
promiscuously into a vase.

When a tea-master has arranged a flower to his satisfaction he will
place it on the tokonoma, the place of honour in a Japanese room.
Nothing else will be placed near it which might interfere with its
effect, not even a painting, unless there be some special aesthetic
reason for the combination. It rests there like an enthroned prince,
and the guests or disciples on entering the room will salute it with a
profound bow before making their addresses to the host. Drawings from
masterpieces are made and published for the edification of amateurs. The
amount of literature on the subject is quite voluminous. When the flower
fades, the master tenderly consigns it to the river or carefully buries
it in the ground. Monuments are sometimes erected to their memory.

The birth of the Art of Flower Arrangement seems to be simultaneous with
that of Teaism in the fifteenth century. Our legends ascribe the first
flower arrangement to those early Buddhist saints who gathered the
flowers strewn by the storm and, in their infinite solicitude for all
living things, placed them in vessels of water. It is said that Soami,
the great painter and connoisseur of the court of Ashikaga-Yoshimasa,
was one of the earliest adepts at it. Juko, the tea-master, was one of
his pupils, as was also Senno, the founder of the house of Ikenobo, a
family as illustrious in the annals of flowers as was that of the Kanos
in painting. With the perfecting of the tea-ritual under Rikiu, in the
latter part of the sixteenth century, flower arrangement also attains
its full growth. Rikiu and his successors, the celebrated Oda-wuraka,
Furuka-Oribe, Koyetsu, Kobori-Enshiu, Katagiri-Sekishiu, vied with each
other in forming new combinations. We must remember, however, that the
flower-worship of the tea-masters formed only a part of their aesthetic
ritual, and was not a distinct religion by itself. A flower arrangement,
like the other works of art in the tea-room, was subordinated to the
total scheme of decoration. Thus Sekishiu ordained that white plum
blossoms should not be made use of when snow lay in the garden.
"Noisy" flowers were relentlessly banished from the tea-room. A flower
arrangement by a tea-master loses its significance if removed from
the place for which it was originally intended, for its lines
and proportions have been specially worked out with a view to its
surroundings.

The adoration of the flower for its own sake begins with the rise of
"Flower-Masters," toward the middle of the seventeenth century. It now
becomes independent of the tea-room and knows no law save that the
vase imposes on it. New conceptions and methods of execution now become
possible, and many were the principles and schools resulting therefrom.
A writer in the middle of the last century said he could count over one
hundred different schools of flower arrangement. Broadly speaking,
these divide themselves into two main branches, the Formalistic and the
Naturalesque. The Formalistic schools, led by the Ikenobos, aimed at
a classic idealism corresponding to that of the Kano-academicians. We
possess records of arrangements by the early masters of the school which
almost reproduce the flower paintings of Sansetsu and Tsunenobu. The
Naturalesque school, on the other hand, accepted nature as its model,
only imposing such modifications of form as conduced to the expression
of artistic unity. Thus we recognise in its works the same impulses
which formed the Ukiyoe and Shijo schools of painting.

It would be interesting, had we time, to enter more fully than it is
now possible into the laws of composition and detail formulated by
the various flower-masters of this period, showing, as they would, the
fundamental theories which governed Tokugawa decoration. We find them
referring to the Leading Principle (Heaven), the Subordinate Principle
(Earth), the Reconciling Principle (Man), and any flower arrangement
which did not embody these principles was considered barren and dead.
They also dwelt much on the importance of treating a flower in its three
different aspects, the Formal, the Semi-Formal, and the Informal. The
first might be said to represent flowers in the stately costume of the
ballroom, the second in the easy elegance of afternoon dress, the third
in the charming deshabille of the boudoir.

Our personal sympathies are with the flower-arrangements of the
tea-master rather than with those of the flower-master. The former
is art in its proper setting and appeals to us on account of its true
intimacy with life. We should like to call this school the Natural
in contradistinction to the Naturalesque and Formalistic schools. The
tea-master deems his duty ended with the selection of the flowers, and
leaves them to tell their own story. Entering a tea-room in late winter,
you may see a slender spray of wild cherries in combination with a
budding camellia; it is an echo of departing winter coupled with
the prophecy of spring. Again, if you go into a noon-tea on some
irritatingly hot summer day, you may discover in the darkened coolness
of the tokonoma a single lily in a hanging vase; dripping with dew, it
seems to smile at the foolishness of life.

A solo of flowers is interesting, but in a concerto with painting and
sculpture the combination becomes entrancing. Sekishiu once placed some
water-plants in a flat receptacle to suggest the vegetation of lakes and
marshes, and on the wall above he hung a painting by Soami of wild ducks
flying in the air. Shoha, another tea-master, combined a poem on the
Beauty of Solitude by the Sea with a bronze incense burner in the form
of a fisherman's hut and some wild flowers of the beach. One of the
guests has recorded that he felt in the whole composition the breath of
waning autumn.

Flower stories are endless. We shall recount but one more. In the
sixteenth century the morning-glory was as yet a rare plant with us.
Rikiu had an entire garden planted with it, which he cultivated with
assiduous care. The fame of his convulvuli reached the ear of the Taiko,
and he expressed a desire to see them, in consequence of which Rikiu
invited him to a morning tea at his house. On the appointed day Taiko
walked through the garden, but nowhere could he see any vestige of the
convulvus. The ground had been leveled and strewn with fine pebbles and
sand. With sullen anger the despot entered the tea-room, but a sight
waited him there which completely restored his humour. On the tokonoma,
in a rare bronze of Sung workmanship, lay a single morning-glory--the
queen of the whole garden!

In such instances we see the full significance of the Flower Sacrifice.
Perhaps the flowers appreciate the full significance of it. They are not
cowards, like men. Some flowers glory in death--certainly the Japanese
cherry blossoms do, as they freely surrender themselves to the winds.
Anyone who has stood before the fragrant avalanche at Yoshino or
Arashiyama must have realized this. For a moment they hover like
bejewelled clouds and dance above the crystal streams; then, as they
sail away on the laughing waters, they seem to say: "Farewell, O Spring!
We are on to eternity."



VII. Tea-Masters


In religion the Future is behind us. In art the present is the eternal.
The tea-masters held that real appreciation of art is only possible to
those who make of it a living influence. Thus they sought to regulate
their daily life by the high standard of refinement which obtained
in the tea-room. In all circumstances serenity of mind should be
maintained, and conversation should be conducted as never to mar the
harmony of the surroundings. The cut and color of the dress, the poise
of the body, and the manner of walking could all be made expressions of
artistic personality. These were matters not to be lightly ignored, for
until one has made himself beautiful he has no right to approach beauty.
Thus the tea-master strove to be something more than the artist,--art
itself. It was the Zen of aestheticism. Perfection is everywhere if
we only choose to recognise it. Rikiu loved to quote an old poem
which says: "To those who long only for flowers, fain would I show
the full-blown spring which abides in the toiling buds of snow-covered
hills."

Manifold indeed have been the contributions of the tea-masters to art.
They completely revolutionised the classical architecture and interior
decorations, and established the new style which we have described in
the chapter of the tea-room, a style to whose influence even the palaces
and monasteries built after the sixteenth century have all been subject.
The many-sided Kobori-Enshiu has left notable examples of his genius in
the Imperial villa of Katsura, the castles of Nagoya and Nijo, and the
monastery of Kohoan. All the celebrated gardens of Japan were laid out
by the tea-masters. Our pottery would probably never have attained its
high quality of excellence if the tea-masters had not lent it to their
inspiration, the manufacture of the utensils used in the tea-ceremony
calling forth the utmost expenditure of ingenuity on the parts of our
ceramists. The Seven Kilns of Enshiu are well known to all students
of Japanese pottery. Many of our textile fabrics bear the names of
tea-masters who conceived their color or design. It is impossible,
indeed, to find any department of art in which the tea-masters have
not left marks of their genius. In painting and lacquer it seems almost
superfluous to mention the immense services they have rendered. One
of the greatest schools of painting owes its origin to the tea-master
Honnami-Koyetsu, famed also as a lacquer artist and potter. Beside
his works, the splendid creation of his grandson, Koho, and of his
grand-nephews, Korin and Kenzan, almost fall into the shade. The whole
Korin school, as it is generally designated, is an expression of Teaism.
In the broad lines of this school we seem to find the vitality of nature
herself.

Great as has been the influence of the tea-masters in the field of art,
it is as nothing compared to that which they have exerted on the conduct
of life. Not only in the usages of polite society, but also in the
arrangement of all our domestic details, do we feel the presence of the
tea-masters. Many of our delicate dishes, as well as our way of serving
food, are their inventions. They have taught us to dress only in
garments of sober colors. They have instructed us in the proper spirit
in which to approach flowers. They have given emphasis to our natural
love of simplicity, and shown us the beauty of humility. In fact,
through their teachings tea has entered the life of the people.

Those of us who know not the secret of properly regulating our own
existence on this tumultuous sea of foolish troubles which we call life
are constantly in a state of misery while vainly trying to appear happy
and contented. We stagger in the attempt to keep our moral equilibrium,
and see forerunners of the tempest in every cloud that floats on the
horizon. Yet there is joy and beauty in the roll of billows as they
sweep outward toward eternity. Why not enter into their spirit, or, like
Liehtse, ride upon the hurricane itself?

He only who has lived with the beautiful can die beautifully. The last
moments of the great tea-masters were as full of exquisite refinement
as had been their lives. Seeking always to be in harmony with the great
rhythm of the universe, they were ever prepared to enter the unknown.
The "Last Tea of Rikiu" will stand forth forever as the acme of tragic
grandeur.

Long had been the friendship between Rikiu and the Taiko-Hideyoshi, and
high the estimation in which the great warrior held the tea-master. But
the friendship of a despot is ever a dangerous honour. It was an age
rife with treachery, and men trusted not even their nearest kin. Rikiu
was no servile courtier, and had often dared to differ in argument with
his fierce patron. Taking advantage of the coldness which had for some
time existed between the Taiko and Rikiu, the enemies of the latter
accused him of being implicated in a conspiracy to poison the despot. It
was whispered to Hideyoshi that the fatal potion was to be administered
to him with a cup of the green beverage prepared by the tea-master. With
Hideyoshi suspicion was sufficient ground for instant execution, and
there was no appeal from the will of the angry ruler. One privilege
alone was granted to the condemned--the honor of dying by his own hand.

On the day destined for his self-immolation, Rikiu invited his chief
disciples to a last tea-ceremony. Mournfully at the appointed time the
guests met at the portico. As they look into the garden path the trees
seem to shudder, and in the rustling of their leaves are heard the
whispers of homeless ghosts. Like solemn sentinels before the gates of
Hades stand the grey stone lanterns. A wave of rare incense is wafted
from the tea-room; it is the summons which bids the guests to enter.
One by one they advance and take their places. In the tokonoma hangs
a kakemon,--a wonderful writing by an ancient monk dealing with the
evanescence of all earthly things. The singing kettle, as it boils over
the brazier, sounds like some cicada pouring forth his woes to departing
summer. Soon the host enters the room. Each in turn is served with
tea, and each in turn silently drains his cup, the host last of all.
according to established etiquette, the chief guest now asks permission
to examine the tea-equipage. Rikiu places the various articles before
them, with the kakemono. After all have expressed admiration of their
beauty, Rikiu presents one of them to each of the assembled company as a
souvenir. The bowl alone he keeps. "Never again shall this cup, polluted
by the lips of misfortune, be used by man." He speaks, and breaks the
vessel into fragments.

The ceremony is over; the guests with difficulty restraining their
tears, take their last farewell and leave the room. One only, the
nearest and dearest, is requested to remain and witness the end. Rikiu
then removes his tea-gown and carefully folds it upon the mat, thereby
disclosing the immaculate white death robe which it had hitherto
concealed. Tenderly he gazes on the shining blade of the fatal dagger,
and in exquisite verse thus addresses it:

          "Welcome to thee,
          O sword of eternity!
          Through Buddha
          And through
          Dharuma alike
          Thou hast cleft thy way."

With a smile upon his face Rikiu passed forth into the unknown.





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