VII. Tea-Masters

« VI. Flowers

In religion the Future is behind us.  In art the present is the eternal. The tea-masters held that real appreciation of art is only possible to those who make of it a living influence.  Thus they sought to regulate their daily life by the high standard of refinement which obtained in the tea-room.  In all circumstances serenity of mind should be maintained, and conversation should be conducted as never to mar the harmony of the surroundings.  The cut and color of the dress, the poise of the body, and the manner of walking could all be made expressions of artistic personality. These were matters not to be lightly ignored, for until one has made himself beautiful he has no right to approach beauty. Thus the tea-master strove to be something more than the artist,–art itself.  It was the Zen of aestheticism.  Perfection is everywhere if we only choose to recognise it.  Rikiu loved to quote an old poem which says: “To those who long only for flowers, fain would I show the full-blown spring which abides in the toiling buds of snow-covered hills.”

Manifold indeed have been the contributions of the tea-masters to art.  They completely revolutionised the classical architecture and interior decorations, and established the new style which we have described in the chapter of the tea-room, a style to whose influence even the palaces and monasteries built after the sixteenth century have all been subject.  The many-sided Kobori-Enshiu has left notable examples of his genius in the Imperial villa of Katsura, the castles of Nagoya and Nijo, and the monastery of Kohoan. All the celebrated gardens of Japan were laid out by the tea-masters. Our pottery would probably never have attained its high quality of excellence if the tea-masters had not lent it to their inspiration, the manufacture of the utensils used in the tea-ceremony calling forth the utmost expenditure of ingenuity on the parts of our ceramists.  The Seven Kilns of Enshiu are well known to all students of Japanese pottery. many of our textile fabrics bear the names of tea-masters who conceived their color or design. It is impossible, indeed, to find any department of art in which the tea-masters have not left marks of their genius.  In painting and lacquer it seems almost superfluous to mention the immense services they have rendered.  One of the greatest schools of painting owes its origin to the tea-master Honnami-Koyetsu, famed also as a lacquer artist and potter.  Beside his works, the splendid creation of his grandson, Koho, and of his grand-nephews, Korin and Kenzan, almost fall into the shade.  The whole Korin school, as it is generally designated, is an expression of Teaism.  In the broad lines of this school we seem to find the vitality of nature herself.

Pages: 1 2 3