Sado (The Art of Tea) - Japanese Encyclopedia
Sado is the ritual art of Japanese tea ceremony. This article explores the history and customs behind the ancient tradition of tea in Japan!
Sado or chado, literally "The Way of Tea" in Japanese, refers to the teachings of the traditional tea ceremony.
Participants are served matcha (powdered green tea) whisked with hot water in a chawan (tea bowl). The finely ground powder is made from the first tea leaves of the year. As such, it has a refreshing, bitter taste.
The aesthetic of sado is displayed in the tea utensils, teaware, and tearoom and garden where seasonal Japanese confections are served. It continues to be an art form integral to Japanese culture today.
A Legendary Master Who Perfected the Tea Ceremony
photo by PIXTA
The custom of tea drinking is believed to have started in ancient China. Back then, tea was a medicinal drink rather than a tasty infusion.
Around the 7th century, tea was first introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks (*1) who returned from China. By the 12th century, drinking tea was popularized as Zen Buddhism flourished throughout Japan. During that time, Zen temples became cultural hubs for the upper class.
photo by PIXTA
In the 16th century, Sen no Rikyu—a wealthy merchant from Sakai City in Osaka—perfected the art of tea and developed the sado we know today.
The tea master was also a confidant of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a powerful warlord. Thus, Rikyu is said to have taught the tea ceremony to many military generals. Some later became Rikyu's apprentices.
He is accredited for simplifying the tea ceremony steps: a procedure called "temae." Moreover, Rikyu ordered that tea utensils—formerly imported from China—be produced in Japan.
The wabi-sabi aesthetic of tearooms from the cracks of clay walls to hanging calligraphy scrolls ("kakejiku") was also arranged by Rikyu. Through the tea ceremony, he had a powerful influence on Japanese arts and crafts.
*1 Zen Buddhism: A sect of Buddhism where seated meditation, or zazen, is the basic discipline for practitioners.
Sado: The Philosophy Behind "The Way of Tea"
The teachings of sado are deeply associated with Zen Buddhism.
Rikyu incorporated the rustic simplicity of "wabi-sabi”—a uniquely Japanese aesthetic—into the tea ceremony. "Wabi" refers to the spirit of solitude and simplicity, while "sabi" is finding the beauty in imperfection.
Photo from "Matcha Green Tea: Learn How To Make It At Home!"
The aesthetics of wabi-sabi are easily seen in the simple and serene tearoom. This is where guests can calm their minds and deepen their connection with the tea master.
In fact, sado is quite similar to Japanese martial arts ("budo"), including judo, kendo, kyudo, and aikido. These words all contain the kanji character for "do," which means "way" or "path."
Although sado is not a form of self-defense, it falls under the category of "geido": the path of devoting your life to art. Other geido (Japanese traditional arts) include kado (the art of flower arrangement) and shodo (Japanese calligraphy). These disciplines sharpen your mind while striving for mastery in these traditional art forms.
In other words, sado is far beyond the mere act of drinking tea. You'll learn philosophical values through this profound practice.