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The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura
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The Book of Tea (original 1906; edition 2011)

by Kakuzo Okakura

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1,464335,106 (3.95)35
Member:erezv
Title:The Book of Tea
Authors:Kakuzo Okakura
Info:Empire Books (2011), Paperback, 56 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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The Book of Tea by Kakuzō Okakura (1906)

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    Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (aulsmith)
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English (27)  Danish (2)  Hungarian (1)  German (1)  Japanese (1)  French (1)  All languages (33)
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Not actually about tea as much as it's about the way the tradition of the tea-house influenced the Japanese aesthetic. Interesting, touching - and not a terrible introduction to Zen, either. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Jul 16, 2014 |
Read during Spring 2007

An odd but charming little book about the history and art of Japanese tea and tea ceremonies. I'm sure I missed a great deal with unfamiliar names from Japanese culture but I still found it very enjoyable.
  amyem58 | Jul 14, 2014 |
I'm not going to ooh and aah over this book. There is some lovely writing in here, but I'm rather lukewarm at best on this one. A mildly interesting book that was first published in 1906. My edition was published in 2005 and includes a forward and afterward by Hounsai Genshitsu Sen which is almost as interesting as the book itself, and invaluable in helping to understand this book. The book is a bit of a history lesson on tea and Japanese culture and ways of thought. More about the Japanese way of thinking and appreciation for certain arts than anything else. When it was published Japan was just embarking on a path that was not enlightened. It is impossible for me to not think about what was to come. The author clearly believes the East is better than the West. I was hoping for a bit of enlightenment, but came away unimpressed. ( )
  RBeffa | Mar 10, 2014 |
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.4.5/5

The last time I felt what this book conjured up in me, I was in Medieval Art, transcribing the parts of cathedrals in relation to aspects of religion, art, and space. Approaching the choir on high through the humbling nave, raising the eyes up to regard icons and murals as the voices lifts up in Kýrie, eléison, the intersection of westeast aisle and northsouth transept ensuring that should the images not be there, you will still be embodied in the Stations of the Cross. I've forgotten most of the terminology, but the essence is still there: that contextual crossroads where seemingly disparate pieces of your life come together, granting you a glimpse of all the myriad backbones of history converging onto a single point, nothing more than a moment and an insight and you.

I may have much more of the Occidental than Oriental in the marrow of my bones, but the little I've picked up of the Japanese culture so far was enough to set the appreciative tone regarding this particular work. It is a peculiar one in the way of Memórias póstumas de Brás Cubas, the writing in no way implying the publication date of 1905 and a position betwixt the earlier House of Mirth and the later White Fang. The title is also misleading, or rather the tricky type that lures your assumptions in and laughs as they run. This is indeed a book of tea, but tea in terms of history, in terms of movements both religious and aesthetic, in terms of a life of culture entire in the word chanoyu, the way of tea grounded in the fundamentals of philosophy, art, and the lifeline of Japan. Those of the so called West, be prepared to bear for once the scrutinizing eye, and with patient thoughtfulness you will be guaranteed to learn.

However, with every facing off between Japan and the all too encroaching powers of the author's day, there is a bevy of insightful knowledge and beauteous states of mind, ranging from discussion of the architecture of tea-rooms to essays on the meaning of flowers in relation to the tea ceremony and all manner of schools in between, all of which concern themselves as heavily with thought as they do with tea. Taoism and Zennism are here, both explained and expanded upon from China to Japan until finally, Teaism itself develops. For such a small packet of papers, this book packs quite the punch.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.If I said much more, I would have to delve into summary, so I will leave it to you readers to discover this small, yet potent, piece of literature. Chances are you will never look at anything the same way again, and will simply have to mull a while in order to regain your bearings. Over a cup of tea, perhaps?For a moment [cherry blossoms] hover like bejeweled 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." ( )
  Korrick | Feb 26, 2014 |
This is an exquisite little cultural history of Japan centred around the tea ceremony and a philosophy of "teaism" which includes elements of Zen and Taoism.

It's also a work of art and design philosophy which especially falls into place on realising it was written in the wake of the Western aesthetic movement of the late nineteenth century. (The Book of Tea was first published in 1906.) The Japanese perspective described here seems to unite, or else trace a middle way between, the opposition of "artificial" and "natural": nature is here preferred and described as such, but it is a vision of nature honed by human intervention: coloured autumn leaves scattered on a swept path; a single perfect flower in a vase.

This was written at a time when the West still knew little about Japanese culture but the author (a Japanese scholar who emigrated to Boston and wrote in English) points out that one aspect had taken hold: a less formal adaptation of the tea ceremony. I had almost forgotten the idea, but the preparation and role of tea does retain a ritualistic aspect even in mundane contexts. Unless perhaps it's from, as Douglas Adams described, "a machine which provide[s] a plastic cup filled with a liquid... almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea" - and even then, there is some (im)patient waiting to be done.

I've ended up with a Project Gutenberg version of the book via a cheap Kindle purchase. This lovely little work deserves better, although academic editions - with the introduction and notes from which it must benefit - don't seem to be easy to find here. Now, one with the background material and illustrations would be just gorgeous.

Read 1 June 2013.

-----
Finished 4 Feb 2014
The style (translation?) is close to Wildean at times, but it is more wholly sincere, less arch. Wilde would certainly agree with some of it, though the writer places more emphasis on minimalism and the natural (in this it is closer to Romanticism; the sympathy with cut flowers is adorable, though it is particular - flowers may perhaps be cleaned with a rabbit-hair brush; there is no such care for mammals in this philosophy, it appears). Though the natural is presented indoors in what could be called an "artificial", precise and cultivated manner. Teaism has common currency with all these Western ideas but throughout the book I could taste its own flavour, which is very calming. ( )
  antonomasia | Aug 15, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (60 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kakuzō Okakuraprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brase, MichaelAdaptermain authorall editionsconfirmed
Steindorff, MargueriteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steindorff, UlrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage.
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The whole idea of Teaism is a result of this Zen conception of greatness in the smallest incidents of life.
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?"
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 returned 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.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0486200701, Paperback)

That a nation should construct one of its most resonant national ceremonies round a cup of tea will surely strike a chord of sympathy with at least some readers of this review. To many foreigners, nothing is so quintessentially Japanese as the tea ceremony--more properly, "the way of tea"--with its austerity, its extravagantly minimalist stylization, and its concentration of extreme subtleties of meaning into the simplest of actions. The Book of Tea is something of a curiosity: written in English by a Japanese scholar (and issued here in bilingual form), it was first published in 1906, in the wake of the naval victory over Russia with which Japan asserted its rapidly acquired status as a world-class military power. It was a peak moment of Westernization within Japan. Clearly, behind the publication was an agenda, or at least a mission to explain. Around its account of the ceremony, The Book of Tea folds an explication of the philosophy, first Taoist, later Zen Buddhist, that informs its oblique celebration of simplicity and directness--what Okakura calls, in a telling phrase, "moral geometry." And the ceremony itself? Its greatest practitioners have always been philosophers, but also artists, connoisseurs, collectors, gardeners, calligraphers, gourmets, flower arrangers. The greatest of them, Sen Rikyu, left a teasingly, maddeningly simple set of rules:
Make a delicious bowl of tea; lay the charcoal so that it heats the water; arrange the flowers as they are in the field; in summer suggest coolness; in winter, warmth; do everything ahead of time; prepare for rain; and give those with whom you find yourself every consideration.
A disciple remarked that this seemed elementary. Rikyu replied, "Then if you can host a tea gathering without deviating from any of the rules I have just stated, I will become your disciple." A Zen reply. Fascinating. --Robin Davidson, Amazon.co.uk

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:00 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

This work brings alive the heart of the Japanese Tea-Masters, and guides us with wit into an understanding of the Eastern aesthetic. The book focuses not on the Tea Ceremony itself, but rather on the culture which engendered the Mind of Tea and on the Masters who embodied this spirit.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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