Monday, June 23, 2014


Books Actually carries it.
Go buy!

The book had been sitting around for two Christmas untouched. It wasn't really a book I wanted to know. It promised to be filled with childhood teachings and drills I had to go through and it didn't excite me very much. An acquaintance mentioned it and I grudgingly went home to dig it out.

Okakura Kazuzo's 'The Book of Tea' (岡倉覚三「茶の本」). It's a long essay linking tea to the aesthetic and cultural aspects of Japanese life. It's kinda what Lu Yu's 'The Classic of Tea' (陆羽《茶经》) is to the Chinese lifestyle. The Japanese scholar is also popularly and respectfully known as 'Okakura Tenshin (岡倉天心)'. He lived and died within the Meiji era. He's an ardent supporter of Japanese art, techniques and preserving its cultural heritage and addressing the West to involve them in the value of preserving Asian art. And perhaps unsurprisingly, he wrote many of his notable works in English first, not Japanese.

As with all books about tea, the brains went into sleep mode at each mention of religion and philosophy. Understanding what I read doesn't mean I agree or will practise it. By now, after three years of in-depth 'study' about tea, I've come to realize that the one thing I absolutely dislike doing- to talk to people at length about tea, especially fellow tea enthusiasts. Not keen to be led into protracted discussions no matter whether I agree or disagree with the other views. Tea can be so simple and uncomplicated. Humans, make a hooha over it, and sometimes portray it like it's such a mystery. I just want to stick to brewing and drinking a good cup of tea, dammit, not bloody muse over it.

One can argue till the cows come home that it meant I simply don't understand tea. Maybe. But the philosophy and the universe would be an area I refuse to go into. Reading it academically is enough. I don't wish to adopt it or even ponder over it. Setting the tea table is a thing of simplicity for me. I like it utilitarian. I don't particularly feel like making it into a 'chaxi' (茶席) that infuses elements of nature.

The Philosophy of Tea is not mere aestheticism in the ordinary acceptance of the term, for it expresses conjointly with ethics and religion our whole point of view about man and nature. It is hygiene for it enforces cleanliness; it is economics because it shows comfort in simplicity rather than in the complex and costly; it is moral geometry inasmuch as it defines our sense of proportion to the universe. It represents the true spirit of Eastern democracy by making all its votaries aristocrats in taste. 

Read the book at Cafe Pal to an infusion of oolong and pear bits.
One of my favorite 'flavored teas'.

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