The Book Of Tea By Kakuzo Okakura
(Original Edition) - Free Download

The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura is perhaps the best loved of all tea classics available in the English language. It has been translated to over 30 languages worldwide.



Written by Kakuzo Okakura in 1906, this is a tea classic that you will either love or loathe. Unlike many of the tea classics, which are either written by a Westerner for the Western audience, this is an English book written by a native Japanese artist.

No ordinary artist, Kakuzo was one of the principal founders of the first Japanese art academy - Tokyo School of Fine Arts. He went on to become the curator of the Oriental Art division of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

An international urbanite, Kakuzo traveled widely to Europe, the United States, China and India. Astonishingly, he wrote his main works mostly in the English language.

In the West, he was mainly remembered as the person who introduced the United States to the ideals of Japanese arts AND as the author of his masterpiece: The Book of Tea.

Teaism

The Book of Tea is about the elusive mystery of Teaism.

When it comes to making the hidden obvious, no one does it better than Kakuzo. The Book of Tea is filled with page after page of memorable quotes and stories.

Here is how he started his masterpiece:

"Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence."

"It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order."

"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.'

The origin of the Japanese tea ceremony has its origin in China. And here Kakuzo gave an interesting account of the 3 phases of Chinese tea history in the Book of Tea:

"Like Art, Tea has its periods and its schools."

"Its evolution may be roughly divided into three main stages: the Boiled Tea, the Whipped Tea, and the Steeped Tea. We moderns belong to the last school."

"The Cake-tea which was boiled, the Powdered-tea which was whipped, the Leaf-tea which was steeped, mark the distinct emotional impulses of the Tang, the Sung, and the Ming dynasties of China."

"If we were inclined to borrow the much-abused terminology of art-classification, we might designate them respectively, the Classic, the Romantic, and the Naturalistic schools of Tea."

China Versus Japan

Towards the end of his fascinating exposition of tea history Kakuzo concluded:

"To the latter-day Chinese tea is a delicious beverage, but not an ideal. The long woes of his country have robbed him of the zest for the meaning of life."

"He has become modern, that is to say, old and disenchanted. He has lost that sublime faith in illusions which constitutes the eternal youth and vigour of the poets and ancients."

"His Leaf-tea is often wonderful with its flower-like aroma, but the romance of the Tang and Sung ceremonials are not to be found in his cup."

"Japan, which followed closely on the footsteps of Chinese civilization, has known the tea in all its three stages."

While the relative isolation of the Japan islands gave it stability to become the true heir to the tea ceremony, Kakuzo was perhaps too quick to dismiss China as "old and disenchanted".

The transition from Powder to Leaf tea marked not only a change in philosophy, but also a step change in tea making technologies.

It was during the Ming and Qing dynasties that China switched over from steaming green tea (which is still the main firing process used in Japan today) to roasting and ovening.  Delicate tea leaves gained supremacy over matured leaves.

The remaining 5 tea types (oolong, red, black, white and flower teas) each developed to take its rightful place in the amazing array of Chinese teas. Surely this acceleration of tea-making innovations can't be the signs of an "old and disenchanted" man?

The spirit of the Chinese court and bureaucracy might have declined, but the resourcefulness of the Chinese tea experts continued to find its natural outlets!

Taoism Versus Buddhism and Confucianism

Teaism is Zennism in disguise, and Zennism has its heart and soul in Taoism.

Perhaps Kakuzo in his attempt to explain the differences between the three great religions of the Far East is guilty of putting Buddhism and Confucianism in the shadow of Taoism?

Here is one account:

"Taoism accepts the mundane as it is and, unlike the Confucians or the Buddhists, tries to find beauty in our world of woe and worry."

"The Sung allegory of the Three Vinegar Tasters explains admirably the trend of the three doctrines."

"Sakyamuni, Confucius, and Laotse once stood before a jar of vinegar--the emblem of life--and each dipped in his finger to taste the brew."

"The matter-of-fact Confucius found it sour, the Buddha called it bitter, and Laotse pronounced it sweet."

The reality is often gray rather than black and white.

Often misunderstood by foreign commentators, the institutional Confucianism acted more as a political tool to preserve social order rather than a path to personal salvation.

A well educated Chinese person is often simultaneously a Confucians, Taoist and Buddhist.

He is a Confucian in his conduct and outward appearance. He is a Taoist in his aesthetic and artist pursuits, and in his mundane struggle of power.

In the matter of life, death and compassion, he is a Buddhist.

Conclusion

The Book of Tea is a book that you will have to read only one paragraph each day. For each page is laden with paradoxical wisdom that will keep you enchanted over each sip of tea. Don't put it down. Highly recommended!

PS: Currently selling at Amazon for $14.95, a download of the original edition of The Book of Tea is now available FREE for newsletter subscribers. Offer available ONLY for a limited period of time.

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