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Japanese Tea Ceremony (vocabulary)

A Tea Gathering

A tea gathering celebrating the end of the year at the Asian Art Museum. (Photo: Deborah Clearwaters)

Chanoyu: literally “hot water for tea”; centers on the act of making a bowl of tea and serving it as an everyday activity through which one achieves a state of consciousness that is extraordinary.

Chabana: “tea flowers”; seasonal flowers for the tea gathering; unlike ikebana, these are meant to be placed simply to look as natural as they would in a field.

Chakai: Tea Gathering

Ichi-go ichi-e:  literally “one time, one meeting” (pronounced eecheego eechee-eh). This is the awareness that each tea gathering is a once in a lifetime event, never to occur again. For this reason, the sharing of a bowl of tea should be conducted with humble nature and the utmost sincerity.

Ikebana: literally “to arrange and give life to flowers"; a refined form of floral arrangement in Japan; like the Japanese tea ceremony, ikebana traces its development to Buddhist ritual. Today, ikebana is the umbrella term for a stunning array of styles of flower arranging from the traditional to the avant-garde, involving nearly 3,000 schools in Japan and abroad.

Mizuya: “water room” preparation area for tearoom, usually with area to wash and store utensils.

Muchu-an: poetic name of our the Asian Art Museum’s tearoom “Hut in the midst of fog.” "-An" is not written, but is spoken when referring to a named tearoom; homonymous with “rapturous ecstasy,” or to be completely absorbed in something.

Sen Rikyu (1522–1591): tea master and advisor to shoguns on aesthetics; regularized tea practice as it has been handed down to the present; favored wabicha or rustic, withered style of tea; ancestor to the three Sen traditions of tea still active today (Urasenke, Omotesenke, and Mushanokojisenke)

Muchu-an: poetic name of our the Asian Art Museum’s tearoom “Hut in the midst of fog.” "-An" is not written, but is spoken when referring to a named tearoom; homonymous with “rapturous ecstasy,” or to be completely absorbed in something.

Tokonoma: alcove for display of objects in a traditional Japanese room.

Wabicha: literally “withered” or “rustic tea;” aesthetic term borrowed from poetry to evoke a sense of that which is withered, lonely, miserable; for example, making tea in a tiny, impoverished little hut, using utensils accessible to anyone such as cut bamboo for a flower container.

Wa Kei Sei Jaku (harmony, respect, purity and tranquility) four principles of Chanoyu as left by tea master Sen Rikyu (1522–1591) that practitioners of tea endeavor to integrate into their daily lives:

  • harmony with other people and one’s environment
  • respect for other people even if we disagree
  • purity of heart and in environment
  • tranquility of mind and spirit—a return to our natural state.