Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Huts, Environment and the Ceremony of Tea

Tea hut. Image from

¨The customs and beliefs of the ambient of culture contribute to the meaning of foods, and reciprocally foods themselves contribute to the defining characteristics of a culture. The tea ceremony of Japan is a practice of Zen Buddhism and manifests (exemplifies) the values of that philosophy. It involves far more than just drinking tea, for the ceremony is a staged event that prescribes ideal qualities for the physical surroundings and for the utensils to be  used. It invites engagement with all the senses and and fosters meditation on the meaning of the experience. D. T. Suzuki describes the art of tea drinking in terms of the Zen value of simplicity. The hut for the ceremony is spare, nestled in a spot chosen for vegetation, view, water, wind. The preparation of the tea is unhurried; the tastes are delicate, indeed all the sensations surrounding the event are soft and harmonious. Here is Zen Master Takuan´s description of a tea ceremony:
Let us then construct a small room in a bamboo grove or under the trees, arrange streams and rocks and plant trees and bushes, while (inside the room) let us pile up charcoal, set a kettle, arrange flowers, and arrange in order the necessary tea utensils. And let all this be carried out in accordance with the idea that in this room we can enjoy the streams and rocks as we do the rivers and mountains in Nature, and appreciate the various moods and sentiments suggested by the snow, the moon, and the trees and flowers, as they go through the transformation of seasons, appearing and disappearing, blooming and withering. As visitors are greeted here with due reverence, we listen quietly to the boiling water in the kettle, which sounds like a breeze passing though the pine needles, and become oblivious of all worldly woes and worries.¨ (Carolyn Korsmeyer. The Meaning of Taste and the Taste of Meaning. In Arguing about Art. New York, 2004)

Floor plan of a tea hut. From

The snow-covered mountain path 
Winding through the rocks 
Has come to its end; 
Here stands a hut, 
The master is all alone; 
No visitors he has, 
Nor are any expected.

Poem by Sen no Rikyū (1521-1591) 
From Exeas. Teaching materials and resources.

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