by Adam Sōmu Wojciński
Open-air Tea Ceremony
“In nodate, we directly empathise with the transient nature of flowers, forests, seasides and sunsets, and look into the mirror of our own mortality.”
Tea ceremony instructor, Adam Sōmu Wojciński, reflects on the evolution of the Japanese tea ceremony.
Photograph Courtesy of Adam Sōmu Wojciński
“I’m in it everywhere
What a miracle: trees, lakes, clouds, even dust.”
- Ikkyū Sōjun
The first nodate, or open-air tea ceremony, goes back to tea’s origin story. Shennong, the ‘Divine Farmer’ of Chinese mythology, was trialling medicinal plants when leaves on burning twigs of the tea plant were carried up by the hot air of the fire, and landed in his pot of boiling water. Shennong cupped the brew from his kettle and took the first taste of tea: the beverage that would become a common meeting ground for all humanity.
Gathering around a fire to enjoy tea has been a human ‘ritual’ from time immemorial. But nowhere has tea been elevated to a true ritual status like in Japan. By the 15th century, tea drinking was surrounded by opulence and protocol so excessive that it provoked an aesthetic revolution felt in the words of one tea master who cautioned: “Tea is always in danger of becoming like decorative costumes of court musicians. A tea person should perform with paucity in all things.” It was time to refocus tea practice on the essentials. Luxury imported goods were substituted by forging tea scoops and vases from everyday bamboo, and wooden water pails were preferred over perfect celadon pitchers. This brought focus to the idea of facing one’s fleeting existence by embracing nature.
Find this, and more, in the forthcoming print edition of Issue No.8.
In the meantime, checkout Issue No.7.
Issue No.7 features in-depth interview with artists and arts organizations across 10 cities.