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THE BOOK OF TEA by Kakuzo Okakura, foreword and afterward by Soshitsu Sen XV (Kodansha: $6.95, illustrated).

July 07, 1991|Charles Solomon

Originally published in 1906, Okakura's eminently readable treatise represented one of the first attempts to explain Oriental aesthetics and philosophy to a general Western audience. The ritual act of sharing a cup of tea in the chanoyu, or "tea ceremony," is an expression of the broader chado --"Teaism" or "the way of tea": The refined simplicity of the ceremony encapsulates the desire to live in accordance with the principles of harmony, tranquility, respect and purity. "Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence . . . . It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life." When "The Book of Tea" first appeared, international attention was focused on the recent Japanese victory over Russia, but Okakura's comments on the friction between Eastern and Western cultures, and the need for mutual respect and understanding, have taken on added importance more than three-quarters of a century later.

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