Arts and Culture
This paper examines Chado/Sado (literally the Way of Tea but usually translated as the Japanese tea ceremony) as presented in The Book of Tea (1906) by Tenshin Okakura, and its contemporary reception and practice in Britain. Okakura was a great proponent of Asian culture and linked Chado with Japanese aestheticism and morality, calling a cup of tea “a cup of humanity”. Addressed specifically to a Western audience, the book was composed in English and gained great popularity among many Western intellectuals. Written in response to increasing European presence in Asia, Okakura attempted to portray Chado as a comparable philosophy to Western esotericism, while at the same time celebrating Asian culture in relation to Western values. Departing from his original intention, this paper goes on to discuss how Chado is understood in contemporary Britain drawing on interviews with its practitioners. For many, the attraction of Chado seems to lie in its philosophy and connection to the natural world reflected in the use of simple utensils, and elaborate yet practical procedures. Oriental spirituality in the West has taken three main trajectories: removal of the original religious elements, hybridisation with other traditions, and emphasis of the Eastern tradition. It seems that the case of Chado is in the last category since its followers find its unique “Japaneseness” its main appeal. This paper also problematises why the stress of Japaneseness seems to be a success of attracting Western audience to Chado.