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The Book of Tea (Standard Ebooks) PDF, ePub eBook The Book of Tea, one of the great English tea classics, is a long essay about the connection between teaism, Taoism, and the aesthetics of Japanese culture. It was written by Okakura Kakuzō in English and was published in the United States in 1906. The essay targets a Western audience and seeks to explain the importance of tea in Japanese culture, not just as a beverage, bu The Book of Tea, one of the great English tea classics, is a long essay about the connection between teaism, Taoism, and the aesthetics of Japanese culture. It was written by Okakura Kakuzō in English and was published in the United States in 1906. The essay targets a Western audience and seeks to explain the importance of tea in Japanese culture, not just as a beverage, but as a form of art expressed in different aspects. After a brief introduction of the Western attitude towards tea, Okakura demystifies the admiration of the Japanese people for this green plant by presenting the different schools of tea, its connection to Zen philosophy, and how it has affected the arts. The famous tea ceremony and its rigid formalities are explained, together with the contributions of the great tea-masters. The Book of Tea is considered by many to be one of the first books to introduce Eastern culture and philosophy to the Western world. This was possible due to Okakura’s early contact with the English language and Western thought, but also due to his later involvement in the Asian art division of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, which he came to head in 1910.

30 review for The Book of Tea (Standard Ebooks)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paquita Maria Sanchez

    Just a few things: * If you find yourself moving 13 times across 4 cities in 3 states over a period of less than 3 years, you'll notice that your bedroom looks more and more like a Japanese tea room each time. * Monzaemon Chikamatsu is referred to in this text as the "Japanese Shakespeare." Will I be seeking this man's work out as soon as possible? Damn right! Pfft...don't threaten me with a good time. * "We have an old saying in Japan that a woman cannot love a man who is truly vain, for there is Just a few things: * If you find yourself moving 13 times across 4 cities in 3 states over a period of less than 3 years, you'll notice that your bedroom looks more and more like a Japanese tea room each time. * Monzaemon Chikamatsu is referred to in this text as the "Japanese Shakespeare." Will I be seeking this man's work out as soon as possible? Damn right! Pfft...don't threaten me with a good time. * "We have an old saying in Japan that a woman cannot love a man who is truly vain, for there is no crevice in his heart for love to enter and fill up. In art vanity is equally fatal to sympathetic feeling, whether on the part of the artist or the public." Where does this philosophy of art and ego leave someone like, say, Salvador Dali or James Brown? Yes, I just used those two names together for the same illustrative purpose. * You know that Churchill quote about being a liberal at twenty and a conservative at forty? Screw that quote. This one's better: "Man at ten is an animal, at twenty a lunatic, at thirty a failure, at forty a fraud, and at fifty a criminal." * This book is about art, architecture, philosophy, comparative Eastern spirituality, interior design (yep), meditation, simplicity, life, death, love, hate, desire, debauchery, flower gardening, Eastern/Western relations and perceptions, and, uh...what else? Oh yeah, tea. * Dear children of the world: "Tell me, gentle flowers, teardrops of the stars, standing in the garden, nodding your heads to the bees as they sing of the dews and sunbeams, are you aware of the fearful doom that awaits you? Dream on, sway and frolic while you may in the gentle breeze of summer. To-morrow a ruthless hand will close around your throats. You will be wrenched, torn asunder limb by limb, and borne away from your quiet homes. The wretch, she may be passing fair. She may say how lovely you are while her fingers are still moist with your blood...It may even be your lot to be confined in some narrow vessel with only stagnant water to quench the maddening thirst that warns of ebbing life." How lovely is that? * This is a beautiful and informative work. What else do ya need, huh?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sidharth Vardhan

    In the trembling grey of a spring dawn, when the birds were whispering in mysterious cadence among the trees, have you not felt that they were talking to their mates about the flowers?" Wow! "True beauty could be discovered only by one who mentally complete the incomplete.” Just wow! "Rikiu loved to quote an old poem which says: "To those who long only for flowers, fain would I show the full-blown spring which abides in the toiling buds of snow-covered hills." More wow! "The tea-master, Kobori- In the trembling grey of a spring dawn, when the birds were whispering in mysterious cadence among the trees, have you not felt that they were talking to their mates about the flowers?" Wow! "True beauty could be discovered only by one who mentally complete the incomplete.” Just wow! "Rikiu loved to quote an old poem which says: "To those who long only for flowers, fain would I show the full-blown spring which abides in the toiling buds of snow-covered hills." More wow! "The tea-master, Kobori-Enshiu, himself a daimyo, has left to us these memorable words: "Approach a great painting as thou wouldst approach a great prince." In order to understand a masterpiece, you must lay yourself low before it and await with bated breath its least utterance." Wow ad infinitum! Proper review: "Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things." Beautiful writing all around. In terms of prose, it has to be the best Japanese book I have read. Okakura's purpose is to show west the depth of thought that is contained in simplicity of Eastern culture, Teaism in particular. Teaism is a culture/life style in Japan which values things like modesty, simplicity etc - in many ways very opposite of consumerism that plagues present day world. Besides general history of tea and Teaism, the author discusses a bunch of other subjects - such as need of a dialogue between West and East, religions (Taoism, Budhism, Jainism etc), flowers, poetry, translation, philosophy, art, aesthetics, architecture etc within a very short space and without ever discarding his beautiful prose. About Taoism: "The ancient sages never put their teachings in systematic form. They spoke in paradoxes, for they were afraid of uttering half-truths. They began by talking like fools and ended by making their hearers wise. Laotse himself, with his quaint humour, says, "If people of inferior intelligence hear of the Tao, they laugh immensely. It would not be the Tao unless they laughed at it." About Translations: "Translation is always a treason, and as a Ming author observes, can at its best be only the reverse side of a brocade- all the threads are there, but not the subtlety of colour or design.” Philosophy: "One day Soshi was walking on the bank of a river with a friend. 'How delightfully the fishes are enjoying themselves in the water!' exclaimed Soshi. His friend spake to him thus: 'You are not a fish; how do you know that the fishes are enjoying themselves?' 'You are not myself', returned Soshi; 'how do you know that I do not know that the fishes are enjoying themselves?'" Art criticism: An eminent Sung critic once made a charming confession. Said he: "In my young days I praised the master whose pictures I liked, but as my judgement matured I praised myself for liking what the masters had chosen to have me like." More quotes: "The primeval man in offering the first garland to his maiden thereby transcended the brute. He became human in thus rising above the crude necessities of nature. He entered the realm of art when he perceived the subtle use of the useless." "Man at ten is an animal, at twenty a lunatic, at thirty a failure, at forty a fraud, and at fifty a criminal." "Tell me, gentle flowers, teardrops of the stars, standing in the garden, nodding your heads to the bees as they sing of the dews and sunbeams, are you aware of the fearful doom that awaits you? Dream on, sway and frolic while you may in the gentle breeze of summer. To-morrow a ruthless hand will close around your throats. You will be wrenched, torn asunder limb by limb, and borne away from your quiet homes. The wretch, she may be passing fair. She may say how lovely you are while her fingers are still moist with your blood...It may even be your lot to be confined in some narrow vessel with only stagnant water to quench the maddening thirst that warns of ebbing life."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rowena

    This book was just wonderful. It discusses the history of teaism in Asia (mainly Japan but also China). It’s written in a very poetic and philosophical manner. Not only does the book talk about tea, it also talks about how tea has influenced Japanese culture, especially Japanese cuisine, clothing, literature and art. I learned some quite surprising facts. For example, onions were added to tea in some places, and tea-drinking was considered to be an occupation of depraved people! The book also goe This book was just wonderful. It discusses the history of teaism in Asia (mainly Japan but also China). It’s written in a very poetic and philosophical manner. Not only does the book talk about tea, it also talks about how tea has influenced Japanese culture, especially Japanese cuisine, clothing, literature and art. I learned some quite surprising facts. For example, onions were added to tea in some places, and tea-drinking was considered to be an occupation of depraved people! The book also goes into detail about the Japanese tea ceremony and how Japanese tea houses are built in a specific way for atmosphere. Everything is exact : the decor, the utensils, the clothing of the participants, the asymmetric nature, the seemingly fragile architecture...It’s quite amazing the amount of detail that goes into conducting a tea ceremony. There are also many myths and legends added anecdotally. Also, some information on Buddhism and Taoism and Confucianism was included, as well as poetry. As a lover of flowers, I enjoyed the ode to flowers. One of favourite quotes is "But I am not to be a polite Teaist. So much harm has been done already by the mutual misunderstanding of the New World and the Old, that one need not apologize for contributing his tithe to the furtherance of a better understanding." I wholeheartedly agree with this! Additionally, "we have developed along different lines, but there is no reason why one should not supplement the other." Hear, hear! Okakura is definitely very patriotic. ( Side note : one of my Japanese co-workers told me that Okakura was forced to commit seppuku (Samurai ritualistic suicide) as he was heavily involved in politics. ) On one hand, he bemoans how the West supposedly looks down on Japan and then he displays ethnocentric qualities himself, especially when he noted that Western homes have a "vulgar display of riches." Hmm.... That was my only gripe with this book. I will definitely be re-reading it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things. 4.5/5 The last time I felt what this book conjured up in me, I was in Medieval Art, transcribing the parts of cathedrals in relation to aspects of religion, art, and space. Approaching the choir on high through the humbling nave, raising the eye Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things. 4.5/5 The last time I felt what this book conjured up in me, I was in Medieval Art, transcribing the parts of cathedrals in relation to aspects of religion, art, and space. Approaching the choir on high through the humbling nave, raising the eyes up to regard icons and murals as the voices lifts up in Kýrie, eléison, the intersection of westeast aisle and northsouth transept ensuring that should the images not be there, you will still be embodied in the Stations of the Cross. I've forgotten most of the terminology, but the essence is still there: that contextual crossroads where seemingly disparate pieces of your life come together, granting you a glimpse of all the myriad backbones of history converging onto a single point, nothing more than a moment and an insight and you. I may have much more of the Occidental than Oriental in the marrow of my bones, but the little I've picked up of the Japanese culture so far was enough to set the appreciative tone regarding this particular work. It is a peculiar one in the way of Memórias póstumas de Brás Cubas, the writing in no way implying the publication date of 1905 and a position betwixt the earlier House of Mirth and the later White Fang. The title is also misleading, or rather the tricky type that lures your assumptions in and laughs as they run. This is indeed a book of tea, but tea in terms of history, in terms of movements both religious and aesthetic, in terms of a life of culture entire in the word chanoyu, the way of tea grounded in the fundamentals of philosophy, art, and the lifeline of Japan. Those of the so called West, be prepared to bear for once the scrutinizing eye, and with patient thoughtfulness you will be guaranteed to learn. However, with every facing off between Japan and the all too encroaching powers of the author's day, there is a bevy of insightful knowledge and beauteous states of mind, ranging from discussion of the architecture of tea-rooms to essays on the meaning of flowers in relation to the tea ceremony and all manner of schools in between, all of which concern themselves as heavily with thought as they do with tea. Taoism and Zennism are here, both explained and expanded upon from China to Japan until finally, Teaism itself develops. For such a small packet of papers, this book packs quite the punch. The whole ideal of Teaism is a result of this Zen conception of greatness in the smallest incidents of life. Taoism furnished the basis for aesthetic ideals, Zennism made them practical. If I said much more, I would have to delve into summary, so I will leave it to you readers to discover this small, yet potent, piece of literature. Chances are you will never look at anything the same way again, and will simply have to mull a while in order to regain your bearings. Over a cup of tea, perhaps? For a moment [cherry blossoms] hover like bejeweled clouds and dance above the crystal streams; then, as they sail away on the laughing waters they seem to say: "Farewell, O Spring! We are on to Eternity."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    This book is about so much more than tea. This is about how something as seemingly simple as a beverage can define a culture’s history, philosophy and aesthetics. When it was originally published in 1906, the East was just opening to the West, and they had few cultural bridges to use to form bonds and begin to understand each other. But both hemispheres shared a love of tea, and a certain ritualization of its consumption. Through the history of the preparation of tea, and how the beverage travel This book is about so much more than tea. This is about how something as seemingly simple as a beverage can define a culture’s history, philosophy and aesthetics. When it was originally published in 1906, the East was just opening to the West, and they had few cultural bridges to use to form bonds and begin to understand each other. But both hemispheres shared a love of tea, and a certain ritualization of its consumption. Through the history of the preparation of tea, and how the beverage travelled all over the world, Okakura sought to explain his culture to Westerners and dispel their misunderstandings about the East in general, and Japan, in particular. The spiritual aspect of the tea ceremony truly is about an appreciation of beauty, in its smallest details, and it’s a way to create a moment of peaceful serenity that has an almost meditative quality. Okakura ties the links between the tea ceremony and Zen practice and Taoist philosophy, and shows that the beverage has influenced every aspect of his culture in the most subtle yet remarkable ways. Okakura’s writing is beautiful, and I can only assume his words were chosen with as much care as he devotes to detailed information he lovingly packaged in this small book. I have been discovering Japanese writers over the last couple of years, and something about the ethereal beauty of their writing, even translated, leaves me breathless (he describes a bowl of matcha as the "froth of the liquid jade"). To be read slowly over a bowl of matcha, or while nibbling on cucumber sandwiches washed down with the very best Earl Grey.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    That ending. Wow.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Matt Riddle

    The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzō Too little tea, we learn, was a Japanese expression used in reference to a person too busy to stop and smell the roses. Too much tea, then, refers to a person so busy smelling the roses he has little time for much else. In my humble estimation, Mr. Okakura had a little too much tea in him. The Book of Tea makes a number of interesting points. I agree with its author that we Occidentals tend to downplay the Orient’s contributions to such fields as philosophy, relig The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzō Too little tea, we learn, was a Japanese expression used in reference to a person too busy to stop and smell the roses. Too much tea, then, refers to a person so busy smelling the roses he has little time for much else. In my humble estimation, Mr. Okakura had a little too much tea in him. The Book of Tea makes a number of interesting points. I agree with its author that we Occidentals tend to downplay the Orient’s contributions to such fields as philosophy, religion, art, music, etc. -- although I would guess that’s probably a lot less true today than when the book was published in 1906. I also agree with the author’s contention that Hesperian displays of art and culture tend toward ‘promiscuity’ and could do well to take lessons from the East’s more minimalist traditions. Okakura loses me, however, when he tries to make of Teaism a religion -- specifically, Taoism in disguise. I have no quarrel with the cultivation of refined aesthetic sensibilities, but I consider such cultivation to be an accomplishment rather than a virtue. This might seem like splitting hairs, but I believe it’s a very important distinction. For me, cultivating refined sensibilities is something akin to working very hard to learn to swim a mean 100M backstroke. Kudos to you if you’ve done it, but it you haven’t it’s a lack of accomplishment on your part rather than a moral or ethical failing. Okakura’s would-be marriage of refined aesthetic sensibilities with virtue reminds me very much of the Russian concept poshlost. We have no good English translation of poshlost is because it combines characteristics which our English-speaking tradition does not [thank goodness!:] necessarily combine: ethical or spiritual bankruptcy with common lack of taste. Even my main man Anton Pavlovich -- who in The Cherry Orchard pokes great fun at the concept -- falls victim to it in Three Sisters. Natasha’s wearing of colors which clash is undeniable evidence of her poshlost and a dead giveaway that by the end of the play she will become the shameless adulteress and household tyrant she does. How many of you believe that a failure to recognize which colors clash represents an unambiguous signal of turpitude? I consider myself to have great taste in literature and rather plebeian taste in food and drink. Much as I might like sometimes to pretend to the contrary, I don’t actually believe that my enjoyment of Gogol’ or Twain makes me the moral superior of some other sad schmuck enjoying his Grisham or Crichton or Louis L’Amour. Nor do I believe the tea master’s appreciation of his briskly whisked goodness renders him my spiritual superior as I enjoy my skim milk and peanut butter sandwich. P.S. It has been kindly brought to my attention that I've neglected to mention Okakura's offer of the tea master's gentle, contemplative Taoist perspective as a native Japanese alternative to the stern, imperialistic Shinto perspective gathering steam in Japan at the time The Book of Tea was written. That's an inexcusable oversight on my part, especially given that I've read The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang. Okakura's meditative appeal against the strident militarization of his homeland's culture is eerily foreboding of the atrocities shortly to come in his countrymen's near future. I would heartily recommend that anyone with an interest in modern Asian history read The Book of Tea and The Rape of Nanking back to back.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Steven Walle

    This was a very good book on the history of tea and it's importance in the eastern cultures. Tea started out as a medicine and grew itself into a beverage. The book also speaks of the religion of Japan of Teaism. I recommend this book to all. Enjoy and Be Blessed. Diamond

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    It is easy to understand why Joseph Campbell, the much-loved professor of mythology and literature, included this book on his students’ required reading list. It is a profound little masterpiece that sheds light on complex ideas using simple explanations and examples, like Campbell did. Kakuzo Okakura lived primarily in Japan but travelled widely and wrote in English. He is attempting to provide a kind of bridge between East and West, and with these essays that explore the historical, spiritual a It is easy to understand why Joseph Campbell, the much-loved professor of mythology and literature, included this book on his students’ required reading list. It is a profound little masterpiece that sheds light on complex ideas using simple explanations and examples, like Campbell did. Kakuzo Okakura lived primarily in Japan but travelled widely and wrote in English. He is attempting to provide a kind of bridge between East and West, and with these essays that explore the historical, spiritual and cultural aspects of tea drinking, I believe he succeeds. “With Luwuh in the middle of the eight century we have our first apostle of tea. He was born in an age when Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism were seeking mutual synthesis. The pantheistic symbolism of the time was urging one to mirror the Universal in the Particular. Luwuh, a poet, saw in the Tea service the same harmony and order which reigned through all things.” The universal in the particular. This book expands on that idea, explaining how an appreciation of art, and flowers, and tea, can help us understand how to live. “Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.”

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kirstine

    “Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.” It’s not a book about tea, in the sense that it’s not about how to drink your tea, what sorts you can get and what fancy properties they have and “Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.” It’s not a book about tea, in the sense that it’s not about how to drink your tea, what sorts you can get and what fancy properties they have and should you put milk in it or not. However, it does explain why this golden beverage might hold such sway over us, even today: “There is a subtle charm in the taste of tea which makes it irresistible and capable of idealisation. Western humourists were not slow to mingle the fragrance of their thought with its aroma. It has not the arrogance of wine, the self- consciousness of coffee, nor the simpering innocence of cocoa.” Having been written in 1906 you’d think it’d be a bit dated, but it could just as well have been written today. What Okakura has to say about art, philosophy, nature, and the gap between Eastern and Western civilizations, and how to bridge it, is as relevant and as spot on today as it was a hundred years ago. It’s a bit scary really, but goes to show, perhaps, how delicate a thing it is to understand a different culture, and how delicate and slow you have to go in order not to ruin it. He simply does it all by talking about tea, and how it can help you understand all these things. A few teasers on some of the things he has to say about art; “We must remember, however, that art is of value only to the extent that it speaks to us. It might be a universal language if we ourselves were universal in our sympathies. Our finite nature, the power of tradition and conventionality, as well as our hereditary instincts, restrict the scope of our capacity for artistic enjoyment. Our very individuality establishes in one sense a limit to our understanding; and our aesthetic personality seeks its own affinities in the creations of the past. It is true that with cultivation our sense of art appreciation broadens, and we become able to enjoy many hitherto unrecognised expressions of beauty. But, after all, we see only our own image in the universe,—our particular idiosyncracies dictate the mode of our perceptions. The tea- masters collected only objects which fell strictly within the measure of their individual appreciation.” human nature, our culture and nature itself; “Scratch the sheepskin and the wolf within us will soon show his teeth. It has been said that a man at ten is an animal, at twenty a lunatic, at thirty a failure, at forty a fraud, and at fifty a criminal. Perhaps he becomes a criminal because he has never ceased to be an animal. Nothing is real to us but hunger, nothing sacred except our own desires. Shrine after shrine has crumbled before our eyes; but one altar is forever preserved, that whereon we burn incense to the supreme idol,—ourselves. Our god is great, and money is his Prophet! We devastate nature in order to make sacrifice to him. We boast that we have conquered Matter and forget that it is Matter that has enslaved us. What atrocities do we not perpetrate in the name of culture and refinement!” philosophy; “The usefulness of a water pitcher dwelt in the emptiness where water might be put, not in the form of the pitcher or the material of which it was made. Vacuum is all potent because all containing. In vacuum alone motion becomes possible. One who could make of himself a vacuum into which others might freely enter would become master of all situations. The whole can always dominate the part.” and so on, and so on. It is on the whole a very enlightening read on many subjects, all of them centered around tea and its many abilities. “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, for 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.” So if you want to know about the history of tea, the cultural significance it had and still has, and the philosophy that surrounds it and that it’s cultivated through the ages, then this is what you need to read. Even if you are an avid coffee drinker and would never dare look upon a cup of tea, then you will learn a thing or two from this.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Smiley

    First published in 1906, this classic work written in English having only seven short chapters is something rare and essential to those interested in Japanese culture. It is rare because few Japanese writers have written in English, even Natsume Soseki who studied in England in 1901-1903 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natsume_...) wrote most of his stories and novels in Japanese. Moreover, it is essential since reading this book would broaden our understanding on how and why tea in Japan has long First published in 1906, this classic work written in English having only seven short chapters is something rare and essential to those interested in Japanese culture. It is rare because few Japanese writers have written in English, even Natsume Soseki who studied in England in 1901-1903 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natsume_...) wrote most of his stories and novels in Japanese. Moreover, it is essential since reading this book would broaden our understanding on how and why tea in Japan has long been appreciatively admired, consumed and treasured. When I read Chapter 1 The Cup of Humanity (8 pages), Mr Okakura has impressively amazed me as a well-read writer due to his writing scope concerning Dr Samuel Johnson, the great lexicographer, whose tea consumption was legendarily recorded. A reason is that I know his tea addiction from reading his monumental biography by James Boswell, therefore, it is my delight to read this section: Samuel Johnson draws his own portrait as ‘a hardened and shameless tea-drinker, who for twenty years diluted his meals with only the infusion of the fascinating plant; who with tea amused the evening, with tea solaced the midnight, and with tea welcomed the morning.’ (p. 15) Historically, this extract would inform us on this amazing drink preferably hot, it seems to me: The tea plant, a native of southern China, was known from very early times to Chinese botany and medicine. It is alluded to in the classics under the various names of Tou, Tseh, Chung, Kha, and Ming, and was highly prized for possessing the virtues of relieving fatigue, delighting the soul, strengthening the will, and repairing the eyesight. ... The Taoists claimed it as an important ingredient of the elixir of mortality. The Buddhists used it extensively to prevent drowsiness during their long hours of meditation. (p. 22) And what would you do with some tea itself nearby after reading this revelation? … It was of such a beverage that Lotung, a Tang poet, wrote: ‘The first cup moistens my lips and throat, the second cup breaks my loneliness, the third cup searches my barren entrail but to find therein some five thousand volumes of odd ideographs. The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration, -- all the wrong of life passes away through my pores. At the fifth cup I am purified; the sixth cup calls me to the realms of immortals. The seventh cup – ah, but I could take no more! I only feel the breath of cool wind that rises in my sleeves. Where is Horaisan? Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither.’ (p. 25)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Banzai

    Okakura Kakuzo writes that he is "not a polite teaist." This is true. In the Book of Tea, he more or less shames the world, in particular his own countrymen, for subscribing to Western aesthetics. He also makes it clear how he feels about said aesthetics and the junk art coming out of the cluttered, cheap and materialistic culture of 19th century Europe and America. That said, I didn't like this book because I'm a self-deprecating whitey. I liked this book first and foremost because it's pretty! Okakura Kakuzo writes that he is "not a polite teaist." This is true. In the Book of Tea, he more or less shames the world, in particular his own countrymen, for subscribing to Western aesthetics. He also makes it clear how he feels about said aesthetics and the junk art coming out of the cluttered, cheap and materialistic culture of 19th century Europe and America. That said, I didn't like this book because I'm a self-deprecating whitey. I liked this book first and foremost because it's pretty! I might have been ashamed to list that as my number one appeal, but after reading the book I'm quite proud. As far as books go, this one is the perfect size, looking lovely on my bedside table whether open, closed, or in the romantic cardboard sleeve it came in. Second, for the inky portrait of Okakura Kakuzo in the front. He's looking off to the distance, lifting a cigarette to his jaw like some Confucian Marlboro man. The portrait says in eight thousand ways what an introduction couldn't about the opium-induced ire I'm about to launch into. Third, (because any aestheticist does things in threes or fives) for passages such as these, where he is so irritated at the violent, soul-less populace for leaving the minimalist ritual of his romanticized East, he forgoes talking to the reader entirely and chooses to address the flowers instead: "Tell me, gentle flowers, teardrops of the stars, standing in the garden, nodding your heads to the bees as they sing of the dews and the sunbeams, are you aware of the fearful doom that awaits you?" In all seriousness, the book is an important historical record of a time when many of Asia's ancient art and treasures were in danger of being lost forever due to being considered "unfashionable." Kakuzo and a band of artists and intelligistas from several countries formed the Kanga-kai to preserve Japanese art technique and tradition. And yes, you do learn about tea. Take it from me and don't try to wrap your brain around dates and key figures in Asiatic history. Choose, instead, to transcend the words and embrace the lyrical nature of the lesson intended.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anne ✨

    (3.5) Written in 1095 by a Japenese philospher, exploring the history of tea in the east, the Japanese relationship with tea, and comparisons to the notions of tea in western culture. The book is philosophical in tone, covers not just tea, but a bit of history, culture, and religion. There is beautiful writing and thoughtful passages to be savored slowly, while sipping your tea of course 🍵 There are three stages of boiling: the first boil is when the little bubbles like the eye of fishes swim on (3.5) Written in 1095 by a Japenese philospher, exploring the history of tea in the east, the Japanese relationship with tea, and comparisons to the notions of tea in western culture. The book is philosophical in tone, covers not just tea, but a bit of history, culture, and religion. There is beautiful writing and thoughtful passages to be savored slowly, while sipping your tea of course 🍵 There are three stages of boiling: the first boil is when the little bubbles like the eye of fishes swim on the surface; the second boil is when the bubbles are like crystal beads rolling in a fountain; the third boil is when the billows surge wildly in the kettle. The Cake-tea is roasted before the fire until it becomes soft like a baby's arm.... O nectar! - 8th century Tang dynasty poet Luwuh, in 'The Holy Scripture of Tea' One of my favorite chapters was the one not on tea, but on 🌷 flowers! Okakura writes poignantly of his feelings of disdain for the wanton waste among western communities with the number of flowers cut daily to adorn ballrooms, banquet tables etc. 🌸🌹🌻 Tell me, gentle flowers, teardrops of the stars, standing in the garden, nodding your heads to the bees as they sing of the dews and the sunbeams, are you aware of the fearful doom that awaits you?...Tomorrow a ruthless hand will close around your throats. You will be wrenched, torn asunder limb by limb, and borne away from your quiet homes. 💐🥀🌼 Audio/book notes: I listened to this first on audio, but I felt like I wasn't absorbing the words as deeply as I wanted, so I re-read the physical book, and that was definitely the preferred experience, taking my time, re-reading passages, and enjoying the pictures too.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Antonomasia

    This is an exquisite little cultural history of Japan centred around the tea ceremony and a philosophy of "teaism" which includes elements of Zen and Taoism. It's also a work of art and design philosophy which especially falls into place on realising it was written in the wake of the Western aesthetic movement of the late nineteenth century. (The Book of Tea was first published in 1906.) The Japanese perspective described here seems to unite, or else trace a middle way between, the opposition of This is an exquisite little cultural history of Japan centred around the tea ceremony and a philosophy of "teaism" which includes elements of Zen and Taoism. It's also a work of art and design philosophy which especially falls into place on realising it was written in the wake of the Western aesthetic movement of the late nineteenth century. (The Book of Tea was first published in 1906.) The Japanese perspective described here seems to unite, or else trace a middle way between, the opposition of "artificial" and "natural": nature is here preferred and described as such, but it is a vision of nature honed by human intervention: coloured autumn leaves scattered on a swept path; a single perfect flower in a vase. This was written at a time when the West still knew little about Japanese culture but the author (a Japanese scholar who emigrated to Boston and wrote in English) points out that one aspect had taken hold: a less formal adaptation of the tea ceremony. I had almost forgotten the idea, but the preparation and role of tea does retain a ritualistic aspect even in mundane contexts. Unless perhaps it's from, as Douglas Adams described, "a machine which provide[s] a plastic cup filled with a liquid... almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea" - and even then, there is some (im)patient waiting to be done. I've ended up with a Project Gutenberg version of the book via a cheap Kindle purchase. This lovely little work deserves better, although academic editions - with the introduction and notes from which it must benefit - don't seem to be easy to find here. Now, one with the background material and illustrations would be just gorgeous.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katie Lumsden

    A really fascinating little collection of essays, dealing with Japanese culture at the turn of the twentieth-century, especially the tea ceremony and the culture and philosophy that springs from it. I found this really interesting and readable, although possibly more enjoyable if you have vague background knowledge of Japanese and Chinese history and schools of philosophy.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lubinka Dimitrova

    Well... I suppose, some books will speak to you, and some won't but in this particular case the author's cringe-worthy comments regarding the Occident's weltanschauung put me off from the very beginning. There were some mildly interesting passages later on, but all in all, this book was not exactly my cup of tea. Too much philosophical and/or poetic digressions, too little information on tea itself. Still searching for a readable book about tea.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nami

    What a beautiful book. It's amazing to see what changes in this world, and also what stays the same. 4/08 I had a moment of epiphany yesterday, when I realized that I wanted to study the tea ceremony (again) while I'm in Japan, and said something to my mom about wanting to find a teacher. Then today by total coincidence one of my students hands me a page she wrote for me about Chado (the tea ceremony) and the end of is says "I hope that this answer will encourage you to open the door to Chado lea What a beautiful book. It's amazing to see what changes in this world, and also what stays the same. 4/08 I had a moment of epiphany yesterday, when I realized that I wanted to study the tea ceremony (again) while I'm in Japan, and said something to my mom about wanting to find a teacher. Then today by total coincidence one of my students hands me a page she wrote for me about Chado (the tea ceremony) and the end of is says "I hope that this answer will encourage you to open the door to Chado leading you to 'Peacefulness though a bowl of Tea'." Of course, 'answer' is not what she meant here, but it was as if she heard my question telepathically and so answered me this way. I was waaay freaked out! Anyway, when I told my mom about it, she mentioned this book. I think I may have read it but it feels significant to read it again, now.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Megha Chakraborty

    I normally recommend towards the end of my reviews, but this time I recommend to read it in the beginning. Ill say, read it asap, its a small book won't take much time to finish. I have always liked Japanese writing, it has a natural flow and its minimalistic which is the best part. Here the author tells us about Tea, don't get confused by the name it has much more than just tea, it takes a stand on everything. It has so much to give you, life lessons, art lessons, everything you need to know. W I normally recommend towards the end of my reviews, but this time I recommend to read it in the beginning. Ill say, read it asap, its a small book won't take much time to finish. I have always liked Japanese writing, it has a natural flow and its minimalistic which is the best part. Here the author tells us about Tea, don't get confused by the name it has much more than just tea, it takes a stand on everything. It has so much to give you, life lessons, art lessons, everything you need to know. We are given a glimpse of the importance of the things of everyday life and how they should be approached, also we get both an education in tea-making and architecture. This book is timeless, written then, it still makes sense. I am going to re-read this for life lessons. Ill again very highly recommend this book, its an amazing read do not miss this. We are given a glimpse of the importance of the things of everyday life and how they should be approached, also we get both an education in tea-making and architecture. Happy Reading!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    Okakura asks 'When will the West understand, or try to understand, the East?' The circumstances in which he asks this question have greatly changed, but the concern remains. Okakura gives a sort of Pan-Asian outline of the aesthetics and philosophy that surround the simple act of tea-drinking, but his lasting achievement - and perhaps this was his intent all along - is to hint at the absolute gulf, the void of knowledge that even a decently culturally-educated person such as myself, if I can be Okakura asks 'When will the West understand, or try to understand, the East?' The circumstances in which he asks this question have greatly changed, but the concern remains. Okakura gives a sort of Pan-Asian outline of the aesthetics and philosophy that surround the simple act of tea-drinking, but his lasting achievement - and perhaps this was his intent all along - is to hint at the absolute gulf, the void of knowledge that even a decently culturally-educated person such as myself, if I can be so inclined to call myself, having read this essential author and that classic novel, has of Oriental history and culture. Globalised capitalism may have smoothed out some of the differences that encapsulate the East-West divide, but that is an anomaly not even a century old. Difference survives, it still reigns. Or so I presume. When I move to Japan in just under two months' time, perhaps I will have been so totally acclimatised and receptive of my new environment it will hardly seem different to Ireland at all. Different people, different language, but not remarkably so, once one is past the obvious. Part of me feels unready to go anywhere too different, and hopes settling in is not so difficult; another part seeks out the difference, wishes to embrace it fully, and would be disappointed by what is mundane and ordinary. Until I move, I can't say do much more than ruminate on the subject. The East, huh. That which is not West. I'm not one to make grandiose sweeping remarks on Western civilisation, perhaps because it is not a very Irish thing to do. Read 19th and early-20th century philosophers and writers and one will think Western civilisation is a very European thing to make grand personal remarks about. Read the dross of political forums or comment spaces online and one will think Western civilisation is a very right-wing American thing to make grand personal remarks about. The West isn't for me, I don't speak for it, unless it's the West of Ireland, for which I have my own troubles with, but is certainly an area of cultural geography I am more equipped to speak authoritatively about. And if I can say little of the West, what then of the East? Okakura is comfortable and confident in his ability to sketch something definably Eastern from an abridged history of a drink. He's a good writer - I wish I had learnt to write in such a way that I could throw out a word like 'fain' and make it natural. Such a remark could only be ironic now. The polemical nature of The Book of Tea is something I haven't totally formed an opinion on. Okakura is writing to encourage Westerners to develop an interest in Asian art and philosophy, a request that comes with its own complexities today. Okakura was writing against an implicit prejudice in that which was non-Western. I read him acutely aware of an instinct to romanticise my destination. I want my life to change, significantly. Will I begin studying typical Eastern customs and quickly adopt them as my own? What would I be discarding, to do so? Would it be sincere? Can it be sincere for someone like me to become a Taoist or a Teaist or a Zen Buddhist, to read Genji monogatari in the original, to try writing haiku? Would there not be something essentially shallow and tacky and trivial in doing so? I'm moving to Japan, and a little cultural conservative inside me says I shouldn't, because I can only be Irish and know Ireland, and reminds me that Americans try to read Ulysses, that so much is lost in translation from English to English. I wonder if I'll be flicking through this book again in a few months' time. I wonder, I wonder.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ivonne Rovira

    The Book of Tea does, of course, deal with what the author, Okakura Kakuzō, calls Teaism and the history of the tea ceremony in Japan; however, this elegiac, philosophical work deals with much more: the influences of Taoism on Zen Buddhism, the unquestioning embrace of everything Western during the Meiji Restoration, the perfection of imperfection and much more. This short book really made me think about the Western emphasis on the novel and faddish at the expense of the tried and true. Naturall The Book of Tea does, of course, deal with what the author, Okakura Kakuzō, calls Teaism and the history of the tea ceremony in Japan; however, this elegiac, philosophical work deals with much more: the influences of Taoism on Zen Buddhism, the unquestioning embrace of everything Western during the Meiji Restoration, the perfection of imperfection and much more. This short book really made me think about the Western emphasis on the novel and faddish at the expense of the tried and true. Naturally, there is a middle ground between hidebound traditionalism and perpetual upheaval; the problem, of course, is determining where that sweet spot should reside. I was completely unfamiliar with both this treatise and Okakura, and The Book of Tea impelled me to find out more about the art historian Okakura, his mentor Ernest Fenollosa and various others who interacted with them in Tokyo and Boston. I never realized that it was Fenollosa and Okakura who introduced Japanese art to the Western world. Most interesting was that, while fiercely defending the East, all or nearly all of Okakura’s works were written in English and later translated into Japanese. I definitely want to know more about Okakura and read more by him. This book is free in the Kindle format, but it would be well worth it if I had had to pay.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Fergus Murray

    Kakuzo Okakura's The Book of Tea is a sixty-five-page classic which is as much about Eastern patterns of thought as it is about the history and traditions of tea drinking. We are introduced to Teaism (chado), the philosophy of life and tea-drinking that emerged in 15th century Japan as a hot-drink-focused variation on (or aspect of) Zen Buddhism, which itself came out of the mingling of Taoism with the teachings of Buddha in southern China. A particular outlook on life is expressed through the p Kakuzo Okakura's The Book of Tea is a sixty-five-page classic which is as much about Eastern patterns of thought as it is about the history and traditions of tea drinking. We are introduced to Teaism (chado), the philosophy of life and tea-drinking that emerged in 15th century Japan as a hot-drink-focused variation on (or aspect of) Zen Buddhism, which itself came out of the mingling of Taoism with the teachings of Buddha in southern China. A particular outlook on life is expressed through the peaceful appreciation of a cup of tea, and the careful (ritualised) preparation of the tea and the environment in which it is consumed - both the surroundings themselves, and the atmosphere in which the tea is taken. 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, for 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. (p.1) Having talked a little about the philosophy of tea and the history of its introduction to the West, Okakura goes on to give quite a detailed history of its evolution in China and Japan - how early teas were made pounded into cakes and then boiled with salt, ginger, garlic and orange peel as a kind of soup; how the Sung Dynasty saw this brick tea fall out of favour, to be replaced by powdered tea while China's tea culture flowered as never before - with dozens of new varieties springing up, many a poet singing the praises of the cuppa, and the first known religious use of tea by the Zen Buddhists. With the invasion of the Mongol hordes at the end of the Sung Dynasty, and then the turmoil of the Ming Dynasty, alas, the old ways of tea were forgotten in China; powdered tea gave way to steeped leaves, and the drink lost its religious significance. Japan, however, fought off the Mongols in 1281, and their traditions of tea drinking were allowed to carry on unhindered - powdered tea, matcha, had been imported in 1191 along with Zen Buddhism, and the Tea Ceremony around it had already started evolving. By the 15th century it had reached something very much like its present form, and stopped being seen as a specifically Buddhist thing, although its character and feeling remained more or less intact. In the rest of the book the author talks some more about the relation between Taoism and Teaism, then goes on to discuss in engaging detail the history and significance of various integral aspects of the Tea Ceremony: we learn about the roles of the tea-room - which should have an air of refined poverty, and be impeccably clean and tidy but never too symmetrical; of art appreciation, which should be approached humbly and with an open mind; and of flowers - to whose honour we owe it to make the most of their beauty, lest their death be in vain. We learn how each of these came to play the part it does in both the ceremony and in Japanese culture. In the final chapter, we are told of the great Tea-Masters who helped to shape not just the Tea Ceremony but almost every aspect of Japanese cultural life - their art and architecture, gardens and cuisine, customs and clothing. Throughout the text, Okakura's work is peppered with retold myths and historical anecdotes, and informative - if sometimes invective - asides on European and Asian culture. His style is precise and a little old-fashioned, but informal and eminently readable. This review first appeared at http://everything2.com/title/The+Book... (where you can also read the text of the book online)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ishtar

    'Tis said that Chowmushih slept in a boat so that his dreams might mingle with those of the lotus. It was the same spirit which moved the Empress Komio, one of our most renowned Nara sovereigns, as she sang: "If I pluck thee, my hand will defile thee, O flower! Standing in the meadows as thou art, I offer thee to the Buddhas of the past, of the present, of the future." I can’t begin to describe how calm and blessed I feel that such a masterpiece exists in my hands. Reading this book helped me tea 'Tis said that Chowmushih slept in a boat so that his dreams might mingle with those of the lotus. It was the same spirit which moved the Empress Komio, one of our most renowned Nara sovereigns, as she sang: "If I pluck thee, my hand will defile thee, O flower! Standing in the meadows as thou art, I offer thee to the Buddhas of the past, of the present, of the future." I can’t begin to describe how calm and blessed I feel that such a masterpiece exists in my hands. Reading this book helped me tear down a bridge between me and myself, an invisible bridge that posed a hurdle preventing me from seeing the true aesthetic beauty of everything around me no matter how little and insignificant it may seem. I am truly at peace with myself because of this book. As you progress forward you realize that it isn’t just about tea, but more like a lesson in the appreciation of beauty and the worship of an aesthetic. You realize that tea isn’t just a drink, but it is a lifestyle of peace and serenity. It is the art of seeing beauty in all your surroundings. It is the art of flowers, of nature, of colours, of simplicity, of seeing light within yourself. It is not the seeking of perfection, but realizing that perfection can exist in everything, wherever you look. Tell me, gentle flowers, teardrops of the stars, standing in the garden, nodding your heads to the bees as they sing of the dews and the sunbeams, are you aware of the fearful doom that awaits you? Dream on, sway and frolic while you may in the gentle breezes of summer. To- morrow a ruthless hand will close around your throats. You will be wrenched, torn asunder limb by limb, and borne away from your quiet homes.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Asha Seth

    I started reading this book as I'd read somewhere that this is one of the greatest tea classics of all times, not that I knew what a TEA CLASSIC is. In the Indian society, it is a cultural norm to offer tea to guests and visitors. It is quite a tradition that is being followed since ages. So when I read about tea culture and Teaism, I was almost certain that I'd read this book someday since its known to cast light on the significance of tea cultures. This book gives a deep insight on Teaism, a we I started reading this book as I'd read somewhere that this is one of the greatest tea classics of all times, not that I knew what a TEA CLASSIC is. In the Indian society, it is a cultural norm to offer tea to guests and visitors. It is quite a tradition that is being followed since ages. So when I read about tea culture and Teaism, I was almost certain that I'd read this book someday since its known to cast light on the significance of tea cultures. This book gives a deep insight on Teaism, a well-developed practice in Japanese culture. The author has addressed the Western cultures signifying the importance and relevance of Teaism in the Japanese society. Teaism, as per the author, is an art of tea. Teaism is a tea ceremony that helps augment harmony, humanity, fraternity, peace. It tells how this culture taught the Japanese, the elegance of simplicity. Close to the end, the authors spends some good deal of time talking on various tea-masters including Sen no Rikyu.

  24. 4 out of 5

    sevdah

    When will the West understand, or try to understand, the East? We Asiatics are often appalled by the curious web of facts and fancies which has been woven concerning us. We are pictured as living on the perfume of the lotus, if not on mice and cockroaches. He writes about tea, philosophy, religion, architecture, aesthetics, design, history, and lots more in this attempt to explain the East to Westerners. Absolutely beautiful, an incredible essay.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dalia Mahdy

    This book does not only describe tea as the hot drink we know and love, it discusses the rituals of tea drinking in Asia along with some cultural and religious aspects of the Japanese life, and is mainly addressed to western audience.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Meghan Fidler

    I was, at first, disappointed with this little book, for I had mistaken it as a partial translation of one it's elders: the Classic of Tea (茶经) written by Lu Yu (733-804), for example. The fact that Okakura was an Japanese immigrant living in Boston with rich art patrons for followers seemed like an early 20th century version of Karate Kid sensibilities: a "wisdom of the East" transmitted to rich whites in poorly translated Daoist quips. This initial impression was much mistaken. The book conta I was, at first, disappointed with this little book, for I had mistaken it as a partial translation of one it's elders: the Classic of Tea (茶经) written by Lu Yu (733-804), for example. The fact that Okakura was an Japanese immigrant living in Boston with rich art patrons for followers seemed like an early 20th century version of Karate Kid sensibilities: a "wisdom of the East" transmitted to rich whites in poorly translated Daoist quips. This initial impression was much mistaken. The book contains a concise history of the growth of tea in China through the Tang, Sung, and Ming dynasties, and it's arrival and cultivation in Japan. It provides a terse overview of what the author calls "teaism" through a gloss of both Daoist and Zen philosophies. In his desire to open the American mind to principles found in Japan, Okakura argues that the love of tea is shared, and thus East and West met "in the tea cup." The following sections are mixed with descriptions of the meanings and architecture surrounding the Japanese tea ceremony and biting pieces of wit and irony aimed at American and European aesthetics and practices. The Western house, for example, are rooms filled with bric-a-brac becoming little more than cluttered museums meant only to display wealth, not design, intellect, or individuality. The treatment of flowers as momentary fancies of monetary display for the dinning room table, to be thrown out the next day, stands in stark contrast to a quiet moment of flower viewing in a garden, or a select few stems carefully displayed in a place of honor in a room. In a clear moment of critique Okakura laments: "Our standards of morality are begotten of the past needs of society, but is society to remain always the same? The observance of communal traditions involves a constant sacrifice of the individual to the state. Education, in order to keep up a might delusion, encourages a species of ignorance. People are not taught to be really virtuous, but to behave properly. We are wicked because we are frightfully self-conscious. We never forgive others because we know we ourselves are in the wrong. We nurse a conscience because we are afraid to tell the truth to ourselves." I enjoyed The Book of Tea, with it's careful and early commentary of the West paired with clear descriptions of Japanese tea drinking. The novel is a articulate meditation on culture, imperialism, and the politics of domination and resistance. My favorite critique is as follows, since it rings so true with the early scroll depictions of Commodore Perry and his men I witnessed during the anniversary of the Black Ships and the forced opening of Japan to western trade at the Hakodate Museum (函館博物館): the men had their hands in their pants to grip their 'swords', giant crooked beak-like noses and bowed knees. I laughed in the museum, just as Okakura made me laugh today: "There would be further merriment if you were to know all that we [Japan] have imagined and written about you [the White Disaster]. ... Our writers in the past--the wise men who knew--informed us that you had bushy tails somewhere hidden in your garments, often dined off a fricassee of new-born babes!"

  27. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    This book isn't just about tea; it's more about Zen and aesthetics. I loved the following story: Once in the Ravine of Lungmen stood a Kiri tree, a veritable king of the forest. It reared its head to talk to the stars; its roots struck deep into the earth, mingling their bronzed coils with those of the silver dragon that slept beneath. And it came to pass that a mighty wizard made of this tree a wondrous harp, whose stubborn spirit should be tamed but by the greatest musicians. For long the inst This book isn't just about tea; it's more about Zen and aesthetics. I loved the following story: Once in the Ravine of Lungmen stood a Kiri tree, a veritable king of the forest. It reared its head to talk to the stars; its roots struck deep into the earth, mingling their bronzed coils with those of the silver dragon that slept beneath. And it came to pass that a mighty wizard made of this tree a wondrous harp, whose stubborn spirit should be tamed but by the greatest musicians. For long the instrument was treasured by the Emperor of China, but all in vain were the efforts of those who in turn tried to draw melody from its strings. The harp refused to recognize a master. "At last came Peiwoh, the prince of harpists. With tender hand he caressed the harp as one might seek to soothe an unruly horse, and softly touched the chords. He sang of nature and the seasons, of high mountains and flowing waters, and all the memories of the tree awoke! Once more the sweet breath of spring played amidst its branches. The young cataracts, as they danced down the ravine, laughed to the budding flowers, the gentle pattering of rain, the wail of the cuckoo. Hark! A tiger roars, - the valley answers again. It is autumn; in the desert night, sharp like a sword gleams the moon upon the frosted grass. Now winter reigns, and through the snow-filled air swirl flocks of swans and rattling hailstones beat upon the boughs with fierce delight. Then Peiwoh changed the key and sang of love. The forest swayed like an ardent swain deep lost in thought. On high, like a haughty maiden, swept a cloud bright and fair; but passing, trailed long shadows on the ground, black like despair… In ecstasy the Celestial monarch asked Peiwoh wherein lay the secret of his victory. “Sire,” he replied, “others have failed because they sang but of themselves. I left the harp to choose its theme, and knew not truly whether the harp had been Peiwoh or Peiwoh were the harp.” Okakura Kakuzo in The Book of Tea uses this story to illustrate the mystery of art appreciation. Peiwoh represents art and humanity is the harp. “At the magic touch of the beautiful” says Kakuzo “the secret chords of our being are awakened, we vibrate and thrill in response to its call. We listen to the unspoken, we gaze upon the unseen. Memories long forgotten all come back to us with a new significance. Hopes stifled by fear, yearnings that we dare not recognize, stand forth in new glory…The art lover transcends himself.”

  28. 5 out of 5

    Shari

    Move aside Coffee for here comes Tea with its loaded history. Never before had I seen a beverage so defended, and so cherished, as in The Book of Tea. Okakura's work explores the history, and impact, of tea in the evolution of the Japanese culture. He went to great lengths to present this objective that he had to use (coin?) the word "Teaism" to point out its singularity. He claims that tea permeated the Japanese way of life in his time, and before. If it was so in the 20th century, so it is now. Move aside Coffee for here comes Tea with its loaded history. Never before had I seen a beverage so defended, and so cherished, as in The Book of Tea. Okakura's work explores the history, and impact, of tea in the evolution of the Japanese culture. He went to great lengths to present this objective that he had to use (coin?) the word "Teaism" to point out its singularity. He claims that tea permeated the Japanese way of life in his time, and before. If it was so in the 20th century, so it is now. Perhaps much more. You cannot stay a few days in Japan and not drink the stuff. Tea is what you instantly get when you go to most restaurants here. For free! (Drink till your tummy bursts and the waiters keep pouring with a smile in their faces. And, you needn't tip them for the trouble.) There isn't a household that hasn't a box, tin, or packet of tea. Supermarkets offer shelves upon shelves of them you'll get dizzy from the selection. And while you can't decide which to buy, the aroma of steeping leaves from a nearby specialty shop tortures you further into indecision. Green? Barley? Rice? Seaweed? Fruit? Flower? Herb? The Japanese love it so much they put it in their soups, sweets, and health supplements. Some schools give green tea to students. Not to drink, but to gargle to ward off cold. Heck, even Starbucks cannot keep it out of their menus. But that is Tea as a drink. In the Book of Tea, Okakura presents it way beyond its fundamental use. Tea is Teaism. It is a shaper and compounder of history, religion, philosophy, and people. It is a symbol of Asia's stance against the onslaught of occidental-ization and globalization. Teaism is art. In his discourse, Okakura argues this wittily, lyrically, even nostalgically. His narrative explores different avenues, and he presents them with a unique voice that is, understandably, defensive in some parts. From the history of the Chinese dynasties to the use of flowers in a sukiya (tea room), the flow of the narrative touches, humbles and moves. It is so rich and intelligent that it took me a month to read and absorb. And I must say I need to read it again to let it all sink in.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michael Mills

    Part guide, part history of Eastern philosophy, part semiotic analysis, if there's one thing you won't get from this book it's how to make a decent cup of chai. Taking as his basis the argument that tea was the one Eastern ritual to have been fully assimilated into Western culture (this was written a long time before Pokémon, sushi and hentai), Okakura uses it as a gateway to an explanation of fundamental differences between Eastern and Western philosophies. And he does a very good job of turnin Part guide, part history of Eastern philosophy, part semiotic analysis, if there's one thing you won't get from this book it's how to make a decent cup of chai. Taking as his basis the argument that tea was the one Eastern ritual to have been fully assimilated into Western culture (this was written a long time before Pokémon, sushi and hentai), Okakura uses it as a gateway to an explanation of fundamental differences between Eastern and Western philosophies. And he does a very good job of turning Orientalism on its head. He points out the bizarre busy-ness of Western houses, stuffed with overlapping and repeated treasures, apparently as a display of wealth over any attempt to highlight the beauty of the objects themselves. He argues for the value of art as lying in its recognition of the user, and that while posterity is to be respected, tradition in art is a poor model. There's even an intriguing insight into the philosophical basis of Chinese communism as Okakura explains the Taoist belief in the value of the vacuum. Highly recommended for tea fans and students of Orientalism combined.

  30. 5 out of 5

    mindaugas

    at first as the title suggests, i thought this book was merely about tea. however, it is about much more than that. to put it justly it uses tea and tea ceremony as a metaphor for deeper cultural, aesthetic, historical and philosophic issues. it uses tea as a metaphor to examine many facets of japanese life and culture. it is quite interesting and intriguing and and sheds light on a good deal of issues that many ponder on with regards to the orient. it was written for westerners in mind to have at first as the title suggests, i thought this book was merely about tea. however, it is about much more than that. to put it justly it uses tea and tea ceremony as a metaphor for deeper cultural, aesthetic, historical and philosophic issues. it uses tea as a metaphor to examine many facets of japanese life and culture. it is quite interesting and intriguing and and sheds light on a good deal of issues that many ponder on with regards to the orient. it was written for westerners in mind to have a glimpse into and a chance to better understand and appreciate the japanese way of life. for me, at least, it has succeeded in this regard. i will however, have to read it again, as there is quite a bit of information packed into quite a short book. the writing style is quite good, however i found it somewhat, at times, hard to follow. though i think this is due to the fact that like i said it is quite a dense piece of philosophical writing and also possibly due to the fact that we, of this day, have become less used to the language of the age it was written.

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