The Book of Tea (茶の本) by Okakura Kakuzō (1906), is a long essay linking the role of tea (Teaism) to the aesthetic and cultural aspects of Japanese life.

Addressed to a western audience, it was originally written in English and is one of the great English Tea classics. Okakura had been taught at a young age to speak English and was proficient at communicating his thoughts to the Western mind. In his book, he discusses such topics as Zen and Taoism, but also the secular aspects of tea and Japanese life. The book emphasizes how Teaism taught the Japanese many things; most importantly, simplicity. Kakuzō argues that this tea-induced simplicity affected art and architecture, and he was a long-time student of the visual arts. He ends the book with a chapter on Tea Masters, and spends some time talking about Sen no Rikyū and his contribution to the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

According to Tomonobu Imamichi, Heidegger’s concept of Dasein in Sein und Zeit was inspired — although Heidegger remains silent on this — by Okakura Kakuzō’s concept of das-in-der-Welt-sein (being-in-the-worldness) expressed in The Book of Tea to describe Zhuangzi’s philosophy, which Imamichi’s teacher had offered to Heidegger in 1919, after having followed lessons with him the year before.[1]


When tea is more than a drink and the tea ceremony is understood and practiced to foster harmony in humanity, promote harmony with nature, discipline the mind, quiet the heart, and attain the purity of enlightenment, the art of tea becomes teaism. The term “chadao” has two words, the first word is tea and the second is Chinese loanword tao/dao/道, native suffix -ism (also Japanese: 主義), the term can be written as teaism. And it can be used to describe tea ceremony as the interests in tea culture and studies and pursued over time with self-cultivation. Teaism is mostly a simplistic mode of aesthetics, but there are subtle insights into ethics, and even metaphysics. Teaism is related to teamind. A sense of focus and concentration while under the influence of great tasting tea. Teaist is a person who performs or enjoys the art of tea and teaism. In Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures, they all have well developed teaism.


The Book of Tea Okakura Kakuzō The term teaism was first written by the teaist Okakura Kakuzō in the early 20th century in The Book of Tea (茶の本). As the book talks about Japanese tea culture some only signify this with Japanese tea ceremony. It is a synthesis of Taoism, Zennism, and tea. It is likely that it alludes more to the Taoist influences on Zen, and subsequently the Chado, or the Japanese Tea Ceremony, as he makes the statement, ‘A subtle philosophy lay behind it all. Teaism was Taoism in disguise.’ Teaism is brought out for its Taoist origins; but in the second half, it is shown through its manifestations in the Chado and in Japanese culture in general.

Tea Life, Tea Mind of Soshitsu Sen XV Teaism as tea life and tea mind. The teaist, Soshitsu Sen XV in his book Tea Life, Tea Mind, he states of non attachment to culture, “our spirit should flow through life like the wind that flows through all of nature. Identifying with nature in this matter necessarily creates a state of mind with a detached objective quality (Soshitsu Sen 66).” Once a tea grower invited Rikyū to have tea. Overwhelmed with joy at Rikyū’s acceptance, the tea grower led him to his tearoom and served tea to Rikyū himself. However, in his excitement his hand trembled and he performed badly, drowning the tea scoop and knocking the tea whisk over. The other guests, disciples of Rikyū, snickered at the tea growers manner of making tea, but Rikyū was moved to say, “It is the finest.” On the way home, one of the disciples asked Rikyū, “Why were you so impressed by such a shameful performance?” Rikyū answered, “This man did not invite me with the idea of showing off his skill. He simply wanted to serve me tea with his whole heart. He devoted himself completely to making a bowl of tea for me, not worrying about errors. I was struck by that sincerity.” — Soshitsu Sen XV Tea Life, Tea Mind

Terminology of dao/do with respect to tea[]

In this sense tea is more than a drink and more than an art, it is integrated in the culture and the mind. The term Chinese:chadao or Japanese:chado in English is a difficult translation task. In most common use and easy to express translation is “tea ceremony”. A direct translation is “the way of tea” or “the way of tea”. The term “teaism” is by some only signifies this with Japanese tea ceremony. Similar terms are “tea arts” and “tea culture”. While the word lore is usually not used in this context, another term used is tea lore.

See also[]


This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at The Book of Tea.
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  1. Tomonubu Imamichi, In Search of Wisdom. One Philosopher’s Journey, Tokyo, International House of Japan, 2004 (quoted by Anne Fagot-Largeau at her lesson at the College of France of 7 December 2006)

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