Water Jar for Tea Ceremony
Momoyama to Edo period, late 16th-early 17th century
Stoneware with impressed design under glaze (Iga ware)
Designed with impressed gridlike patterns on a green and brown glaze, this water
jar is a perfect statement of simplicity, humility, and rusticity, the Japanese aesthetic
celebrating the everyday. The patronage of tea wares is one way in which military
leaders gained political legitimacy, embracing cultural forms that related to high
spiritual values typified by the Chinese scholar-recluse. Not only were rustic ceramics
such as this water jar intensely coveted and carefully guarded, most of the wares
were given names, biographies, and diaries to designate their status and importance.
Chanoyu, or The Way of Tea
According to Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591), the greatest tea master of Japan, chanoyu
(or "the way of tea") is nothing more than boiling water and drinking it.
He preaches that inside the tea room social distinction disappears and discussion
of political, military, religious, ethical, and social matters is prohibited. The
cult of tea stresses the values of simplicity, self-control, and restraint, and embodies
a moral, an ethic, and eventually an aesthetic. Ironically, this learned and affected
appreciation for the lowest, the poorest, and the broken is a sophisticated and intellectual
approach that separated the connoisseur from the layman. Sen no Rikyu himself ultimately
lost his life due to his intimate involvement with politics and power through tea.