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The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura
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The Book of Tea (original 1906; edition 1991)

by Kakuzo Okakura

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2,539594,994 (3.86)59
The Book of Tea is a brief but classic essay on tea drinking, its history, restorative powers, and rich connection to Japanese culture. Okakura felt that "Teaism" was at the very center of Japanese life and helped shape everything from art, aesthetics, and an appreciation for the ephemeral to architecture, design, gardens, and painting. In tea could be found one source of what Okakura felt was Japan's and, by extension, Asia's unique power to influence the world. Containing both a history of tea in Japan and lucid, wide-ranging comments on the schools of tea, Zen, Taoism, flower arranging, and the tea ceremony and its tea-masters, this book is deservedly a timeless classic and will be of interest to anyone interested in the Japanese arts and ways. Book jacket.… (more)
Member:an_eternalstudent
Title:The Book of Tea
Authors:Kakuzo Okakura
Info:Kodansha International (JPN) (1991), Paperback, 160 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:eastern spirituality

Work Information

The Book of Tea by Kakuzō Okakura (1906)

  1. 31
    Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Two books which appear to be about mundane matters on the surface, but are really about how to live life to the fullest
  2. 10
    Chinese Art of Tea by John Blofeld (iijjaallkkaa)
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» See also 59 mentions

English (48)  Danish (3)  Spanish (3)  Hungarian (1)  German (1)  Japanese (1)  French (1)  All languages (58)
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
Interesting little book regarding the importance and influence of tea. Tea is a part of the Japanese culture, rather than just a drink, but we forget the import it has also had for the Western world. Okakura points out that it was tea that first opened the doors between East and West, and that the heavy duties on tea prompted the American Revolution.

Beyond the historical importance of tea is the philosophical and cultural importance of tea, and the discussion here of Taoism and Zennism was fascinating.

Those who cannot feel the littleness of great things in themselves are apt to overlook the greatness of little things in others.

I enjoyed listening to Mike Rosenlof's reading, which surprised me, as I am still not a fan of audiobooks. ( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
Will have to read again. A bit to philosophical. ( )
  SteveMcI | Jul 1, 2022 |
Kakuzo Okakura, who was known in America as a scholar, art critic, and Curator of Chinese and Japanese Art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, directed almost his entire adult life toward the preservation and reawakening of the Japanese national heritage-in art, ethics, social customs, and other areas of life-in the face of the Westernizing influences that were revolutonizing Japan around the turn of the century.

This modern classic, 'The book of Tea,' is essentially an apology for Eastern traditions and feelngs to the Western world-not in passionate, oversentimental terms, but with a charm and underlying toughness which clearly indicate some of the enduring diffrences between the Eastern and Western mind. Okakura exhibits the distinctive 'personality' of the East throught the philosophy of Teaism and the ancient Japanese tea ceremony. This ceremony is particularly revealtory of a conservative strain in Japanese culture, its ideals of aesthetic tranquility and submission to the ways of the past find no parallel in the major cultural motifs of the West.

Not only does he discuss the tea ceremony and its rigid formalities, and the cult and patterns of belief surrounding tea and tea-drinking, but Okakura also considers religious influences, origins, and history, and goes into the importance of flowers and floral arrangement in Japanese life-their proper appreciation and cultivation, great tea-masters of he past, the tea-room with its air of serenity and purity, and the aesthetic and quasi-religious values pervading all these activities and attitudes.

Okakura's English style was graceful, yet exceptionally clear and precise, and this book is one of the most delightful essay-volumes in the English landuage. It has introduced hundreds of thousands of American readers to Japanese thinking and traditions. This new, corrected edition, complete with an illluminating preliminary essay on Okakura's life and work, will provide an engrossing account for anyone interested in ithe current and central themes of Oriental life.

Unabridged, corrected republication. Introduction, afterward, and notes by E.F. Bleiler.

Contents

I The cup of humanity
Tea ennobled into Teaism, a religion of aestheticism, the adoration of the beautiful among everyday facts; Teaism developed among both nobles and peasants; The mutual misunderstanding of the New World and the Old; The worship of tea in the West; Early records of tea in European writing; The Taoists' version of the combat between spirit and matter; The modern struggle for wealth and power.
II The schools of tea
The three stages of he evolution of tea; The boiled tea, the whipped tea, and the steeped tea, representative of the Tang, the Sung, and the Ming dynasties of China; Lu Wu, the first apostle of tea; the tea ideals of the three dynasties; To the latter-day Chinese tea is a delicious beverage, but not an ideal; In Japan tea is a religion of the art of life.
III Taoism and Zennism
The connection of Zennism with tea; Taoism, and its successor Zennism, represent the individualistic trend of the Southern Chinese mind; Taoism accepts the mundane and tries to find beauty in our world of woe and worry; Zennism emphasises the teachings of Taoism; Through consecrated meditation may be attained supreme self-realization; Zennism, like Taoism, is the worship of relativity; Ideal of teaism a result of the 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
The tea-room does not pretend to be other than a mere cottage; The simplicity and purism of the tea-room; Symbolism in the construction of the tea-room; The system of its decoration; A sanctuary from the vexations of the outer world.
V Art appreciation
Sympathetic communion of minds necessary for art appreciation; The secret understanding between the master and ourselves; The value of suggestion; Art is of value only to the extent that it speaks to us; No real feeling in much of the apparent enthusiasm to-day; Confusion of art with archaeology; We are destroying art in destroying the beautiful in life.
VI Flowers
Flowers our constant friends; The master of flowers; The waste of flowers among Western communities; The art of floriculture in the East; The tea-masters and the cult of flowers; The art of flower arrangement; The adoration of the flower for its own sake; The flower-masters; Two main branches of the schools of flower arragnement, the formalistic and the naturalesque.
VII Tea-masters
Real apprecaition of art only possible to those who make of it a living influence; Contributions of the tea-masters to art; Their influence on the conduct of life; the last tea of Rikyu
Afterword
  AikiBib | May 29, 2022 |
Addressed to a western audience, it was originally written in English. Okakura had been taught at a young age to speak English and was proficient at communicating his thoughts to the Western mind. In his book, he discusses such topics as Zen and Taoism, but also the secular aspects of Tea and Japanese life. The book emphasizes how Teaism taught the Japanese many things; most importantly, simplicity. Kakuzō argues that this tea-induced simplicity affected art and architecture, and he was a long-time student of the visual arts. ( )
  Marcos_Augusto | Sep 17, 2021 |
This book is absolutely beautiful, a true masterpiece. Surely I will read it again someday. It was a present from a childhood friend of my grandmother's, who was a teacher of Chinese and Japanese languages for many years. This was one of her favourite books.
Although very simply written, it opens a window to a worldview vastly different from our own, where contemplation is central, where there is empathy towards nature (see Okakura's chapter dedicated to flowers), and every detail has an enormous aesthetical importance. The Japanese culture is centeredfocused on what is subtil, transient and small.
I found especially interesting the close connection between the tea rituals, taoism and zen buddhism. I would say that this is a must read to anyone interested in eastern culture. ( )
  Clarissa_ | May 11, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (88 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kakuzō Okakuraprimary authorall editionscalculated
Faber, WillIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Soldevila, CarlesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steindorff, MargueriteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steindorff, UlrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vloemans, AntoonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage.
Quotations
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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The Book of Tea is a brief but classic essay on tea drinking, its history, restorative powers, and rich connection to Japanese culture. Okakura felt that "Teaism" was at the very center of Japanese life and helped shape everything from art, aesthetics, and an appreciation for the ephemeral to architecture, design, gardens, and painting. In tea could be found one source of what Okakura felt was Japan's and, by extension, Asia's unique power to influence the world. Containing both a history of tea in Japan and lucid, wide-ranging comments on the schools of tea, Zen, Taoism, flower arranging, and the tea ceremony and its tea-masters, this book is deservedly a timeless classic and will be of interest to anyone interested in the Japanese arts and ways. Book jacket.

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Penguin Australia

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