Japanese Tea Ceremony - Tea Ceremony and Calligraphy

Tea Ceremony and Calligraphy

Calligraphy, mainly in the form of hanging scrolls, plays a central role in tea ceremony. Scrolls, often written by famous calligraphers or Buddhist monks, are hung in the tokonoma (scroll alcove) of the tea room. They 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 tea ceremony. Historian and author Haga Kōshirō points out that it is clear from the teachings of Sen no Rikyū recorded in the Nampō roku that the suitability of any particular scroll for a tea gathering depends not only on the subject of the writing itself but also on the virtue of the writer. Further, Haga points out that Rikyū preferred to hang bokuseki (lit., "ink traces"), the calligraphy of Zen Buddhist priests, in the tea room. A typical example of a hanging scroll in a tea room might have the kanji 和敬清寂 (wa-kei-sei-jaku, lit. "harmony", "respect", "purity", and "tranquility"), expressing the four key principles of the Way of Tea. Some contain only a single character; in summer, 風 (kaze, lit. "wind") would be appropriate. Hanging scrolls that feature a painting instead of calligraphy, or a combination of both, are also used. Scrolls are sometimes placed in the waiting room as well.

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