Chigusa and the Art of Tea

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Written originally in 2014:

Yesterday (Sunday) I decided to jump on the metro and head into Washington DC and go to a museum.  It is one of my favorite activities when I have the time after all.  I am so lucky to be living in an area with so many high-caliber museums and even luckier that the vast majority of them are free.  Having just moved to the area it is definitely something I am not used to and have been taking advantage of whenever I’ve had the opportunity.  I glanced on the internet to check what temporary exhibitions were going on and my choice was simple as I settled upon the Freer / Sackler Museums of Asian art.  After my morning coffee, a short walk, forty-five minutes of Zazen and a blueberry-banana smoothie I was ready to go.

I grabbed my copy of The Three Pillars of Zen that I have been re-reading and headed to the metro.  I was rather excited to get to the museums as there were several exhibits that were ending today.  Sorry folks if you are interested in them you won’t be able to see them.  Among those exhibitions was one “Chigusa and the Art of Tea,” I was particularly interested in.  If you are wondering what Chigusa is then join the club because I had no clue.  Turned out it was, “a utilitarian piece, a large stoneware jar made in southern China in the 13th or 14th century and exported to Japan for use as a commercial container” (Smithsonian Institution).

 

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My interest was piqued for sure and I grabbed my seat on the metro and heading into town.   I have for a long time had an interest in asia and their affinity and significance they hold in tea with the Japanese Tea Ceremony in particular.  This exhibit would have Japanese, Chinese and Korean tea artifacts as well as Chigusa of course.

 

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I wouldn’t say the exhibition disappointed, but it was a lot smaller than I expected.  I learned some interesting and valuable information such as “This mill for grinding tea leaves into fine powder is made of black granite from the Kamo River, which flows through Kyoto. The leaves are added from the opening in the top, and the powder emerges from between the stones, accumulating in the trough. It takes about an hour to grind enough tea for a bowl of “thick tea,” which is shared by all the guests, typically two or three people” (Smithsonian Institution).

Truth be known I don’t usually get all that excited about pottery or ceramics.  I appreciate them and their historical significance, but usually my interest begins to mane after about half an hour.  I spent a good hour examining the artifacts in this collection as other people at the museum came and went.  I found the a tea caddy named Ueda Bunrin especially beautiful.

Chigusa

 

 

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