Japanese Tea Culture: Art, History, and Practice

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Morgan Pitelka
RoutledgeCurzon, 2003 - Social Science - 220 pages
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Often thought of as a rigid ceremony, Japanese tea practice can in fact be creative, critical, performative, or playful depending on social and historical context. This volume illuminates the diverse appeal of Japanese tea culture.

The authors examine tea in its many guises, ranging from a strategy for forging political alliances and gaining cultural capital in the sixteenth century, to a means of constructing private and public narratives in recent decades. They consider the role of the tea practitioner as art connoisseur and arbiter of value, and the function of the tea gathering as an idealized social gathering. They explore how tea practitioners drove cultural innovation by demanding new styles of ceramics in one period, and utensils modeled on imported Chinese pieces in another The book also demonstrates that writing history became an essential aspect of tea culture through the consideration of forms such as diaries, memoranda, manuals, guidebooks, and twentieth-century film.

One of the main goals of the volume is to apply a broad, critical gaze to Japanese tea culture while avoiding the ponderous discourse common in many English-language studies of tea. It aims to de-center the highly mythologized figure of the tea master Sen no Rikyu, while also disputing the fiction of the dominance of aesthetics over politics in tea. As a whole, this book will appeal to students and teachers of Japanese culture and history, tea practitioners, and collectors of ceramics and other arts influenced by traditional Japanese design. Individual essays will appeal to specialists in more narrowly defined fields, such as the art and history of the Edo period, the material culture of sixteenth-century Kyoto, or modern film studies.

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About the author (2003)

Morgan Pitelka is Assistant Professor of Asian Studies at Occidental College, Los Angeles, specializing the cultural history of pre-modern Japan.

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