Tea, like many other things, was first introduced by Buddhist monks around the 9th century. Later, and in the same way, comes the green tea or matcha (抹茶) that we now know as characteristic of Japan. Thus, the ceremony has evolved under the influence of Zen Buddhism.
A prominent figure in the history of the Japanese tea ceremony is Sen Rikyu (16th century), who laid the foundations for the so-called wabicha, a way of proceeding where the predominant aesthetic concept is wabi (simplicity). In addition, he is believed to have introduced the concept ichigoichie (一 期 一 会), which refers to a “unique opportunity” or irretrievable, in keeping with the Buddhist belief in continual change.
In any case, the basic concepts of all traditional Japanese art, and especially of the tea ceremony, are harmony – 和 wa-, respect – 敬 kei-, purity – 清 sei- and tranquility – 寂 jaku-.
The influence of ‘chanoyu’ on the culture of Japan
The “chanoyu” ceremony has played a very important role in the artistic life of the Japanese, due to its aesthetic nature. It implies the appreciation of the venue in which it is celebrated, the importance given to the utensils with which tea is prepared and served, and its decoration (which usually consists of a picture hanging on the wall and a chabana or motif floral). The development of architecture, gardening, ceramics, and the floral arts has largely been influenced by the tea ceremony. The spirit of the “chanoyu” has shaped the basis of these traditional forms of Japanese culture. Since the “chanoyu” represents the beauty of studied simplicity and harmony with nature.
The tea ceremony has crossed the borders of this ritual to leave its influence on the education and manners of the Japanese. In fact, the development of the forms of daily courtesy of the majority of the Japanese obeys mainly to the formalisms that are observed in the ceremony of the “chanoyu”. The tea ceremony serves as the basis for a good education. That is why it is a common practice among young people to receive lessons in this art before marrying, in order to cultivate the refined style and the grace of its own movements.