The Book of Tea: The Illustrated Classic Edition

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9780804832199: The Book of Tea: The Illustrated Classic Edition

Written in 1906 by a future philosopher, curator and Zen teacher, this book, which was intended to be read aloud in a famous salon, interweaves the history of tea with Japanese society. It also contains essays on spirituality, poetry and art.

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Review:

That a nation should construct one of its most resonant national ceremonies round a cup of tea will surely strike a chord of sympathy with at least some readers of this review. To many foreigners, nothing is so quintessentially Japanese as the tea ceremony--more properly, "the way of tea"--with its austerity, its extravagantly minimalist stylization, and its concentration of extreme subtleties of meaning into the simplest of actions. The Book of Tea is something of a curiosity: written in English by a Japanese scholar (and issued here in bilingual form), it was first published in 1906, in the wake of the naval victory over Russia with which Japan asserted its rapidly acquired status as a world-class military power. It was a peak moment of Westernization within Japan. Clearly, behind the publication was an agenda, or at least a mission to explain. Around its account of the ceremony, The Book of Tea folds an explication of the philosophy, first Taoist, later Zen Buddhist, that informs its oblique celebration of simplicity and directness--what Okakura calls, in a telling phrase, "moral geometry." And the ceremony itself? Its greatest practitioners have always been philosophers, but also artists, connoisseurs, collectors, gardeners, calligraphers, gourmets, flower arrangers. The greatest of them, Sen Rikyu, left a teasingly, maddeningly simple set of rules:

Make a delicious bowl of tea; lay the charcoal so that it heats the water; arrange the flowers as they are in the field; in summer suggest coolness; in winter, warmth; do everything ahead of time; prepare for rain; and give those with whom you find yourself every consideration.
A disciple remarked that this seemed elementary. Rikyu replied, "Then if you can host a tea gathering without deviating from any of the rules I have just stated, I will become your disciple." A Zen reply. Fascinating. --Robin Davidson, Amazon.co.uk

From the Inside Flap:

Okakura Kakuzo was born in the bustling seaport of Yokohama in 1862, only eight years after Commodore Perry's "Black Ships" pried open Japan's international trade gates. Christian missionaries taught him to speak English and sing Methodist hymns, while Buddhist monks schooled him in Confucianism and drinking green tea. Working alongside his teachers at Tokyo University, all imported from New England, Okakura helped save Japan's artistic traditions from being tossed aside in favor of modern Western aesthetics.

By the turn of the twentieth century, Okakura had made his way to Boston, where he became the Director of the Asian Arts Department at the Museum of Fine Arts and the favorite companion of Back Bay society's grande dame,  Isabella Stewart Gardner. Okakura found tea to be the perfect metaphor for interpreting the Japanese art spirit to a Boston culture thirsty for a counterpoint to America's headlong rush into materialism and wealth. The Book of Tea was first published in 1906 and has never been out of print. It is one of the most influential books ever written for those looking to infuse the tea spirit into their lives.

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Book Description Tuttle Publishing, Boston, MA, U.S.A., 2000. Pictorial Boards. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. Proctor, Daniel (illustrator). Boston: Tuttle, 2000. Second printing of this edition. Introduction by Liza Dalby with wonderful photography by Daniel Proctor. Pictorial boards, 113 pp. illustrated throughout. New in new dust jacket. Size: Squared-off 8vo. Bookseller Inventory # 007872

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