The “Cha No Yu” meaning hot water originated as a Buddhist ritual. Eisai, the Buddhist Monk was famous for creating the Zen of this ceremony, as well as for planting the first tea plants in Uji, a region near Kyoto Japan. These tea gardens are now famous, and tea is a way of life for the Japanese. Tea, therefore; became popular throughout Japan and by the mid fifteenth century, Japanese monasteries had copied communal living from China. These “Sung” rules or rules of living included how to prepare and consume tea, and were held in special tea houses throughout Japan.
The preparation and drinking of tea includes the Cha No Yu ceremony. The rules of this ceremony were founded by Murata Shuko (1422-1522), which includes inviting a few esteemed guests or drinking the tea alone. There is a pattern or ritual which is closely followed when preparing and partaking of the precious tea. This highly refined art form includes the Zen, a philosophy that symbolizes purity of spirit and soul, which become joined together when sipping the tea. The Cha and the Zen are also linked in the ceremony. Guests meditate and find peace within their souls as they sip their tea. The Cha No Yu reflects the values and culture of the Japanese, and takes place in a beautiful yet simple teahouse.
Murata Shuko’s original teahouse was lightly decorated to reflect the true meaning of the tea ceremony; showing a simplistic way of living. The teahouse in Japan today is called a “Chashitsu.” To reach this pavilion one must walk up a garden path reminiscent of a mountain path. The simplistic surroundings of the teahouse includes tatami mats, paper panels and wood. A painted scroll is above the alcove, flowers are placed in a vase and the kettle sits within a sunken hearth. Fine porcelain is imported from China and includes stoneware dishes, ladle, spatula, bamboo whisk and cast iron teapot. After a light meal, the host serves “Matcha” a green fine powdered tea called “Gyokuro” and is whipped with hot water to make “Koicha” tea. Strong tea is served first; followed by a weak tea; sipped slowly to find inner strength and harmony.
The Cha No Yu is an art perfected today in Japan, and is taken with great care and attention to detail. Over the century Cha No Yu’s rules have been perfected and refined. Tea masters have spent many years studying this ceremony, but the essentials have always remained the same, which are defined as serenity, purity, harmony and respect, otherwise known as “The Way of Tea.”
copyright Deidre R. Bissonette
Dattner, Christine. 2003. The Book of Green Tea, Universe Publishing