Sen Soshitsu is the fifteenth generation head of the Urasenke tradition which provides instruction in the “Way of Tea” (Chado; also known as Chanoyu, literally “hot water for tea”). He has written that this practice, though often called the “tea ceremony," is not really a ceremony or ritual at all, but a way of life based on the simple act of serving tea with a pure heart. Beyond its spiritual aspect, the “Way of Tea” allows participants to interact with other people, with nature, and with the environment on a basic, satisfying level.
The photograph shows Sen Soshitsu preparing tea at an event to mark the Asian Art Museum’s re-opening in 2003. He is seated in a special tearoom installed in the museum’s Japanese art gallery, having just ladled hot water from an iron kettle that is heating on a brazier recessed into the floor. He pours the hot water in a steady stream from a bamboo ladle into the tea bowl set before him on the mat. The utensils he uses and his carefully choreographed actions are both aspects of the practice that can be traced directly to the influential sixteenth century tea master Sen Rikyu (1522–1591). Sen Rikyu taught the way of tea to several samurai lords of his day.