Behind the Japanese Tea Gathering
November 19, 2015 | M. Clay
As fall gives way to winter, gathering over a hot beverage is a natural way for humans to connect.
“It is the art of everyday life,” explains Chizuko Sueyoshi, who along with members of the Japanese Tea Practitioners of Durham (JTPD) will demonstrate chanoyu, or “the way of tea.”
Carolina Asia Center Director and Associate Professor of Asian Studies Morgan Pitelka will lead a conversation about tea rituals followed by the Japanese tea gathering at Hyde Hall on Friday Nov. 20. This free event, hosted by the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, is completely booked.
As part of the Food and the Humanities series at IAH, the event is one of many conversations around the university theme “Food for All: Local and Global Perspectives.” The recent issue of Carolina Arts and Sciences focuses on this as well.
JTPD regularly practices the way of tea at the Duke Gardens teahouse in Durham. The teahouse was built in 2007 as part of a sister city project between Durham and Toyama, Japan.
Pitelka’s research has focused on the history of Japanese tea culture as well as the role of ceramics, an important part of the tradition.
“I came to the study of tea, and of Japan, through my own involvement in making ceramics,” he says. “My father is a professional potter and I grew up making pots, and this naturally led me to become interested in Japan, which has perhaps the richest ceramic culture in the world, largely supported by the practitioners of the tea ceremony.”
Sueyoshi’s instruction on Japanese tea rituals began when she was a high school student. She says her aunt was her first tea instructor. Her appreciation for the tradition has evolved over the years.
“It was no fun for teenagers: Too many rules and small details,” she says. This includes the instruments used, the preparation of tenshin, a light meal. It concludes with a bowl of freshly whisked matcha, processed green tea leaves that have been stone-ground into a delicate powder. “Now that I am older, I appreciate the culture of Japan and the culture of tea.”
Her favorite part is sharing a bowl of tea with guests and conversing.
The Institute for the Arts and Humanities serves as UNC’s faculty home for interdisciplinary conversation and collaboration. Its mission is to help the university recruit, refresh, develop, and retain world-class faculty of scholars and teachers. At the heart of this mission is the affirmation of the crucial value of the arts and humanities to the life of the university and the world.
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