April 11, 2010

Tea: Ritual and Music

Da'ak - Green Aroma (Korean Creative Music Society)

Ritual tea ceremony began in China nearly 3,000 years ago. Our modern society has so many drugs, energy drinks, and artificial stimulants that simply cup of tea seems rather plain. Imagine yourself in ancient times and consider how consuming this natural substance powerfully alters your mind and body. In ancient times these tea ceremonies were used to reflect the order seen in the universe with the hope to infuse this stability into society.

In Korea ritual tea drinking began as part of an homage to ancestors or to Buddha himself. These ceremonies were 'nationalized' and actually formally codified in form in the fifteenth century. However, the tradition has lasted in most part due to the monks. The common rituals finally permeated the society as a whole and reached a golden age in Korea during the sixteenth century. It is very interesting to consider the formal aspect of drinking tea in Europe. Somehow ritualized tea drinking focuses on good manners; something as lost in this world as the ceremonies I speak of.

The ceremonies vary wildly in degree of formality but all adhere to the following rules: First, greet your guests and be sure to bow and announce the beginning of the ceremony. Next, heat water in a tea kettle and pour the water in the cups to be used. This simply preheats the wares so they do not distort the tea to come. When finished heating the equipment simply pour the water in a bowl. To brew the tea first spoon the appropriate amount into the kettle followed by hot water. The most important step after the tea is brewed is pouring the tea. Each cup must receive the tea in thirds. Pour one third into the first cup, then the second, and so on. Repeat with the second and third portion of tea. This ensures everyone receives a cup of equal strength. Before drinking ponder the color and smell. Always finish your first cup of tea before tasting the food. This ensures you taste the fullness of the brew without any invasion. Finally, wait to clean up until all guests have left!

The Korean Creative Music Society has put together an art program combining music, dance, and the ritual of tea drinking. I highly recommend checking it out if the troop comes to your city. Below is a video of a performance. I leave you in hope that you consider your next cup of tea something much than trivial.


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