For anyone enamored by the Asian mystique, and seeking to quench a thirst and hunger for deeper understanding, The Book of Tea is an excellent quick relief, if not an exquisite appetizer.
The book is an interesting narrative, written in a very lyrical form, of the Philosophy of Tea, its historical evolution, and the foundation of Teaism into Japanese art, culture and religion. Having been in Japan for quite a while now, it was a delightful experience to be able to recall and make connections from past and recent observations of that distinct ‘Japanese flavor’ that permeates through every aspect of their life.
“The tea masters held that real appreciation of art is only possible to those who make of it a living influence. Thus they sought to regulate their daily life by the high standard of refinement which obtained in the tea-room. In all circumstances serenity of mind should be maintained, and conversation should be conducted as never to mar the harmony of the surroundings.”
Now I understand why it’s so quiet in this country! hahaha! Kidding aside, they really do uphold the value of ‘harmony’ and strives never to break the Wa (和) – the peaceful unity and conformity within a community.
Kakuzo Okakura’s presentation of the Japanese way of perceiving, behaving and doing tings which is strongly rooted in the art of Teaism, is to a certain extent patriotic and reverent, sober yet effervescent. Consistent with tea philosophy and art, his prose and poetry resonate the ‘value of suggestion’ creating a ‘vacuum’ for readers ‘to enter and fill up the measure’ of their ‘aesthetic emotion’.
“Great as has been the influence of tea-masters in the field of art, it is as nothing compared to that which they have exerted on the conduct of life… They have given emphasis to our natural love of simplicity, and shown us the beauty of humility… through their teachings tea has entered the life of the people.”
Go ahead, grab a copy and immerse yourself into the school of tea and art appreciation. I am almost certain you will find this book informative and interesting as it is inspiring. After all, “Art is Life and Life is Art”. Or as Oscar Wilde better puts it, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”