Thursday, May 03, 2007

lanterns, Jade Buddha and Tea

The Japanese tea ceremony (茶道, chadō or sadō, "the way of tea") is a traditional ritual influenced by Zen Buddhism in which powdered green tea, or matcha (抹茶), is ceremonially prepared by a skilled practitioner and served to a small group of guests in a tranquil setting. Colloquially it is often called ocha among Japanese.

The pronunciation sadō is preferred by some traditions, including the Omotesenke and the Mushanokōjisenke, while the pronunciation chadō is preferred by others, including the Urasenke tradition, though the two words are completely interchangeable.

Cha-no-yu (literally "hot water for tea") usually refers to either a single ceremony or ritual or equivalent with sadō/chadō, while cha-ji refers to a full tea ceremony with kaiseki (a light meal), usucha (thin tea) and koicha (thick tea), lasting approximately four hours. A chakai (literally "tea meeting") was originally equal to cha-ji, although today it means the simplest one, which does not include a kaiseki meal, in some cases, nor even koicha.

Since a tea practitioner must be familiar with the production and types of tea, with kimono, calligraphy, flower arranging, ceramics, incense and a wide range of other disciplines and traditional arts in addition to his or her school's tea practices, the study of the tea ceremony takes many years and often lasts a lifetime. Even to participate as a guest in a formal tea ceremony requires knowledge of the prescribed gestures and phrases expected of guests, the proper way to take tea and sweets, and general deportment in the tea room.