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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 Teais 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 Teafolds 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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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ISBN-10:  4770030142
ISBN-13:  978-4770030146
Author:  Kakuzo Okakura
Publisher:  Kodansha International
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review by . August 01, 2009
The tea ceremony is something that is uniquely Japanese, but much of the significance of the role tea plays in Japanese culture is lost on the average Westerner. Kakuzo Okakura attempted to correct that lack of knowledge in his 1906 book The Book of Tea: The Classic Work on the Japanese Tea Ceremony and the Value of Beauty. This book has become the defining text on the meanings woven into the ceremony, the setting, and everything surrounding it.     It's a small book, 155 pages, …
The Book of Tea: The Classic Work on the Japanese
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