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Japanese teapots

In Japan, the focus on tea and its culture are centered on the procedures of Chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony. The central idea of the Chanoyu is to bring peace, serenity and harmony to the souls of its participants. It helps them to forget about their worries, problems and other worldly affairs for some time and to feel the inextricable connection with the world around. The equipment of the tea ceremony plays a significant role in the process. It is finely made and decorated for the guests to feel the atmosphere of the sacrament.

The tiny cups, ladles and teapots speak of the wealth of the ceremony host. History It is known that the Tetsubin, which is another name for Japanese teapot, was first used in the middle of the 17th century in Japan. The tea ceremony itself appeared much earlier, created by the Zen Buddhist monks in the 14th century and developed by the Sen No Rikkyu in the 16th, but it was used primary by the wealthy and educated people. A new type of tea called Sencha was introduced in the 17th century. Before that time Japanese drank Matcha, which came in the form of the powder.

It was brewed in the cup. Sencha, the tea that consisted of the tealeaves instead of the powder soon became popular among the ordinary folk. Drinking it was not considered a formal ceremony but presented tea as a drink that was closely associated with medicinal herbs. Most people adopted Sencha drinking as a symbolic revolt against the formality of Chanoyu, which was favored by the ruling class. During the 18th century drinking Sencha became more and more popular among the townsfolk and a need in the equipment for tea drinking appeared.

People who weren’t rich couldn’t afford to buy the Chinese tea utensils used in Sencha as they were too expensive and rare to find. So a necessity appeared in the new Japanese style teapot to replace the expensive Chinese. It was fulfilled by the creation of the Tetsubin. The author of the article “Tetsubin”, found at the “More organic” website says: It is thought that these teapots were crafted in the likeness of kettles that were all ready in use; the most common was called Yakkan. The Yakkan was crafted in copper. Tea enthusiast believed that tea brewed in an iron kettle was much more desirable.

Through this century Tetsubin was a common household necessity. In the 19th century the teapot became more of a status symbol. Pots became more elaborate and intricate in design and reflected the class, real or desired, of its owner. Elaborate Tetsubin became thought of as works of art. That’s why the teapots became more and more elaborated, in a great variety of the shapes, sizes and colors. They were sometimes decorated by the unique ornaments and their prices were really high. The design of the Tetsubin, which represent the important aspect of the Japanese history and culture, are simple but lovely.

Nowadays this teapot is appreciated not only as the perfect tea brewing vessel, but also for its cultural and aesthetic value. The use of the Tetsubin during the tea ceremony It is known that the ritual of the tea ceremony didn’t suffer much alteration during the time of its existence. Today, the same as 100 or 200 years before the guests kneel down on the mat and sit waiting to be served by their tea. A Kama (container for holding water) and a brazier stand in front of them. The essential things for decorating the tea house are calligraphy and some flowers arranged in a simple way.

The manner of arranging the tea tools is ritualistic, used to show the tea values of harmony. For participating in the tea ceremony all the worries and problems should be left outside the tea house. The host usually takes his time cleaning the instruments before serving tea to let his guests calm down and feel the atmosphere of serenity around. Then start the ritualistic and prescribed movements. The tea powder and water in the bowl are mixed with the bamboo whisk, and then the same bowl is shared by everyone. The guests lift the bowl and take sips until they drink all the liquid.

They also compliment about the tea tools, ask questions and admire the tea bowls and cups. Then the guests leave to think over their experience. What role did the Tetsubin play in the Japanese Tea Ceremony? Since a Tetsubin is shaped like a typical teapot it makes sense to think it plays a significant part in the Japanese Tea Ceremony, Chanoyu. However that is not the case. It does play a small but important role being used on several occasions of the Tea Ceremony. One of these is called Ryakubon; a first ceremonial setting requiring a minimum set of equipment, among which is the Tetsubin for preparing the tea.

Another occasion is called Kaiseki, which is a light meal served to guests before the more formal Tea Ceremony. It is also used on occasions where the Tea Ceremony is held outdoors to replace the cha-gama, due to its relatively small size and spout. The cha-gama is a relatively large item without a spout that requires water be ladled to the teacups. (34-35) Groningen, “Tetsubin: a Japanese waterkettle”, London, UK, 1988 Although the role of the Tetsubin in the Japanese tea ceremony is relatively small, it is still a lovely, yet functional and stylish piece in its own right.

Its simplicity of decoration and shapes attracts the attention of judges of art all over the world. Choosing, care and use Here is a piece of advice about choosing the Japanese teapot: 1. The teapot which is artistic and valuable usually contains enough tea to serve 2-3 persons and not masses. 2. The color should not be dyed. 3. The cap must be firm and should not move around easily. 4. When water is poured out of the teapot, it should come out in a beautiful stream. 5. The body must not feel grainy. 6. The mouth may have a net to catch unwanted tea leaves. 7. The hardness of the body should be just right.

If too hard , that means that the teapot artist has used too much metallic elements and may be brittle and break easily. 8. The shape should be flowing and there should not be awkward proportions. 9. Good teapots tend to have skin that feel brittle and its walls are usually thinner than the inferior or imitation pots. The manufacturers usually advise that the tetsubin should be used only for brewing tea, not as stove-top cattle. The tea shouldn’t be left standing for a long time in your Tetsubin and it must be dried fully before storing. The tetsubin shouldn’t be washed with abrasive pads, harsh detergents or soaps.

Simply rinse it with plain water and wipe it dry after each use. In Japan the natural mineral layer buildup inside a tetsubin is considered to be good for the health and helps to prevent rust from forming inside. Your teapot shouldn’t be exposed to salt or oil. By following these guidelines your tetsubin will provide many years of enjoyment. Collecting Japanese teapots As the Japanese teapots are the objects of great aesthetic and cultural value a lot of collectors choose them as an object of their interest. Leslie Ferrin in her article “Collecting teapots” asks: Why teapots?

Why not other standard ceramic forms – vases, platters, pitchers or bowls? In part it’s because teapots are multidimensional objects steeped in world culture and ceramic history. Also, the form makes its stand at the intersection of the art versus craft debate, probing limits in both directions, at times simultaneously (24). The Japanese teapots attract the collectors with the atmosphere of mystique which has always been floating above the eastern culture. These small pieces of art seem to absorb the Japanese’s science of bringing harmony to the world around. That’s why this item is becoming more and more popular today.

Leslie Ferrin in the same article states: “As they (customers) have purchased and assembled collections unified by one idea, ceramists have been encouraged to produce even finer examples” (24). And it’s not surprising, as the article’s admirable tenuity and stylishness make it a desirable decoration for the living room of the most exceptive person.

Works cited

1. Ferrin, Leslie. “Collecting teapots”, Ceramics Monthly, Sept. 1992: 23-25. 2. Groningen, “Tetsubin : a Japanese waterkettle”, London, UK: Geldermalsen Publications, 1988, 34-35. 3. MoreOrganics:“Tetsubin”,2000:

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