Title: The Book of Tea
Author: Kakuzo Okakura
Length: 72 pages
Genre: Non-fiction, Essays
About This Book
As the title suggests, this non-fiction book of essays is about tea; but it’s also about much more. While it takes a look at the history of tea, philosophic and religious influences and beliefs surrounding tea and the drinking of tea, the tea-room and tea ceremony, it also delves into other topics such as art and art appreciation, flowers, arranging flowers, Teism, and the differences between Western and Eastern approaches.
While I did find this book of essays to be a bit dry at times; that didn’t put me off from reading it. I learned quite a bit actually. For instance, I knew that the tea ceremony was important in Japanese culture, but didn’t know just *how* important.
My favorite chapter by far was the one on the tea-room. I learned that great care and consideration are put into how the tea-room looks. You will see that reflected in one of the quotes below. It is my understanding, also, that the tea-room is like a haven; a place of peace and tranquility.
I also found the discussion of art appreciation thought provoking. My husband and I had a great discussion regarding some of Okakura’s comments regarding art and art appreciation. Teism is also discussed at length. But what really stood out to me was how Teaism taught simplicity.
My family loves to drink hot tea; and that is what drew me to read The Book of Tea. I’ve walked away from reading these essays with not only more understanding about tea, but also more knowledge about the Japanese culture. Not to mention the fact that now I want to go through various things in our home and simplify more. 🙂
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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 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 lilly, 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?”