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"The Way of Tea"

History & Philosophy

Harmony, Respect, Purity, Tranquility

Wa Kei Sei Jaku (harmony, respect, purity and tranquility) are the four principles of chadō/tea ceremony as described by Sen no Rikyū – a tea monk and aesthete who lived in 16th century Japan.


Tea was first brought to Japan by Chinese Buddhist monks in the 9th century, but it did not become widespread until the 15th and 16th centuries. At that time, regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi was one of the most powerful military leaders in Japan, and Sen no Rikyū was his tea master. In contrast with Hideyoshi’s political grandeur and ambition, Rikyū promoted a style of tea preparation that was distinctly humble and rustic in character – known as wabi-sabi or wabi-cha.


Wabi represents the inner, or spiritual, experiences of human lives. Its original meaning indicated quiet or sober refinement, or subdued taste "characterized by humility, restraint, simplicity, naturalism, profundity, imperfection, and asymmetry" and "emphasizes simple, unadorned objects and architectural space, and celebrates the mellow beauty that time and care impart to materials."


Sabi, on the other hand, represents the outer, or material side of life. Originally, it meant "worn", "weathered", or "decayed". Wabi-sabi supporters claimed that cherishing one's unpolished and unfinished nature was the first step to satori, or enlightenment.


Rikyū and Hideyoshi’s contrasting philosophies eventually led to conflict, and Rikyū was ordered to commit ritual suicide in 1591. However, Rikyū’s descendants and disciples carried on his teachings and founded their own tea schools – many of which still exist today.


"Japanese tea ceremony",


Contemporary Practice

A Global Phenomenon

Although its roots are still deeply informed by Japanese history and culture, tea ceremony today is a global practice – with thousands of practitioners learning, teaching, and making tea in countries all over the world.


Los Angeles has a rich history of tea ceremony practice, first brought by Japanese immigrants, and then popularized by pathbreaking figures such as the late Urasenke Master, Madame Sosei Matsumoto. Its vibrant community continues to nurture and share chadō with people of all religions, creeds, and backgrounds.


As tea ceremony has spread across national, cultural, and social boundaries, so too has the practice shifted to meet the varied needs and contexts of its diverse practitioners.


UTeaLA continues to practice and teach tea ceremony in this spirit – informed by wisdom of the past, in touch with the needs of the present, and pushing boundaries to make the world of the future.

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