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The tea ceremony

The tea cermony
Credit: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Michel Tremblay)
The tea cermony
The tea ceremony

Some elements of Japanese culture exert a special fascination for visitors. That’s the case with the tea ceremony, which features participants enjoying a bowl of matcha, powdered green tea whipped in hot water.

Chadō (or sadō), the “Way of Tea”

This name refers to an activity of a solemn character, governed by its own set of rules and strict etiquette.

The tea ceremony originated both in an ancient ritual practiced in China by Zen monks – and introduced to Japan in the 12th century – and in various forms of secular diversion created around tea in Japan. Already well established by the 15th century, the tea ceremony continued to evolve thanks to the successive contributions of grand masters including Sen no Rikyū, who in the 16th century raised it to a high level of refinement.

Decisively colored by Zen thinking, the tea ceremony remains today a spiritual and esthetic experience elevated by beauty.

Cha-no-yu, “hot water for tea”

But what is the tea ceremony? Sen no Rikyū described it in these disarmingly simple terms: it is heating water, preparing tea, and drinking it.

At the heart of the ritual, the performance of which is regulated much like a choreography through precise and predetermined gestures, lies a heightened awareness of the present moment and a giving of oneself over to the simple pleasure of sharing a bowl of tea. All measures taken by the host contribute to the fullness of the experience: the implements, meticulously chosen on the basis of the occasion and the season; the modest floral arrangement and the calligraphy adorning the alcove. Added to that is the sound of water flowing gently from the bamboo ladle or perhaps the murmur of the kettle – which, it is said, evokes the wind caressing the tops of the pine trees... Here, no idle conversation about the state of the world: everything relates to the tea and to intense appreciation of the moment in a community of spirit.

A number of actions performed by the host or by the guests leads to the realization of the four principles set out by Sen no Rikyū: harmony, respect, purity and tranquility. Thus, carefully admiring the tea bowl or examining the calligraphy are ways of expressing gratitude to the host who has chosen these objects and of demonstrating one’s respect for the artist or craftsperson who produced them.

Around a simple bowl of tea a rich tradition developed that the thinker and critic Okakura Tenshin would later describe as a true “art of living.”

Will you be with us to enjoy the experience at the Japanese Pavilion?

Interesting links

  • Tea ceremony at the Japanese Pavilion: Saturday, presentations at 1:30 and 3 p.m., until September 2
  • Guided tours of the Tea GardenUntil September 4: every day (except Saturday p.m.) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 to 4 p.m. From September 8 to October 31: Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 to 4 p.m.
  • Mealtime! Until September 7: every day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 to 4 p.m. From September 8 to October 31: every day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 9 p.m.
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