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  • Writer's pictureCatherineK

Chabana (茶花,"tea flowers")

The Japanese tea ceremony cha-no-yu (茶の湯), also called the Way of Tea, was introduced from China in the 8th century. During the 12th century matcha (抹茶), the powered green tea was used in this ceremony.

Tea drinking was very popular among the nobility, who used this as an opportunity to display and enjoy beautiful and expensive works of art. One of these art works displayed was a Chabana arrangement found in the tokonoma (床の間, toko-no-ma), a recessed space in a Japanese-style reception room.

The arrangement was developed to fit this mood and setting which was to restore a sense of calm and inner harmony. The method of arranging the flowers is according to the nageire, or thrown in, style of flower arranging. The flowers in this type of arrangement are styled outward—facing forward to welcome guests. The focus is always on the visitor meaning that the arrangement should open up towards the centre of the room. The arrangements are done in simple containers of natural materials, bamboo, baskets and rustic ceramics either unglazed or matt-glazed in subdued colours. Flowers are seasonal and unscented the finished arrangement of flowers evokes a feeling similar to what one feels in the natural garden setting.

One of the other main elements within this tokonoma room is a kakemono (掛物, "hanging thing"), more commonly referred to as a kakejiku (掛軸, "hung scroll"). These scrolls often written by famous calligraphers or Buddhist monks are selected for their appropriateness for the occasion, including the season and the theme of the particular get-together. Calligraphic scrolls may feature well-known sayings, particularly those associated with Buddhism, poems, descriptions of famous places, or words or phrases associated with the tea ceremony such as harmony (wa), respect (kei), purity (sei) and tranquility (jaku) these are the four underlying principles of the tea ceremony.

Wa is the relationship between the host and the guest. The whole tea ceremony is mainly conducted for the pleasure and peace of mind of the guests, so this is a very important part of the whole process. It also relates more generally to the harmony of humans and nature, and the way that we live and exist in the world.

Kei denotes the respect of others and the world, and suggests that to truly become at peace individuals must practice humility and unselfishness.

Sei is all about cleanliness, both physically and spiritually. Physical cleanliness is adhered to in the ritual of washing before entering the teahouse, whereas spiritual cleanliness or purity is achieved through the tea making and drinking process.

Jaku, lastly, is the internal tranquility and stillness of mind that is gained through the ritual of the tea ceremony, where you can become truly selfless.

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