Nov 15, 2007

The etiquette of the tea ceremony

I have a new class of students this term. I always ask them at the beginning of the term what they think that they will be learning for the next 10 weeks. It was interesting that in this group of students more than one wrote that they wanted to learn and even expected to learn the etiquette of tea ceremony so that when they went to a tea ceremony they would know what to do and wouldn’t offend anyone.

There are many rules to follow in Chanoyu, whether you are the host or the guests. The elaborate ritual of etiquette that is followed in the ritual may seem confusing or unnecessary to modern sensibilities. And yet, there is something about knowing what to do and when to do the right thing. When everyone knows what the rules are, they are not just empty gestures that have no meaning. They become a way to strengthen bonds and renew relationships. It fosters a sense of belonging and brings harmony to individuals so that they begin to function as a group.

In the beginning, when we are learning the etiquette of chanoyu, it may seem insincere to express gratitude at certain specific times. But the form and the etiquette teaches us what is expected and the appropriate way to express it.

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