Japanese Tea Ceremony brings Elon faculty, students, staff together

The ceremony was organized by Pamela D. Winfield, associate professor of religious studies, and Toko Ishikawa of the Triangle's Nippon Club - Chanoyu. 

Students in the Sages and Samurai: Religion in the Japanese Experience class participated in an authentic Japanese tea gathering in Carlton Commons on Thursday, Oct. 12. 

Other members of the university community including President Leo M. Lambert, staff representatives from Physical Plant, program assistants, and other faculty, students, and family members – were all invited to observe the quiet ritual of cha-no-yu, the art of preparing and sharing a bowl of frothy green tea.

As a pedagogical exercise and as an enjoyable cultural moment, this gathering replicated the historical fact in Japan that all social distinctions are temporarily suspended during tea. The event was organized by Pamela D. Winfield, associate professor of religious studies, and Yoko Ishikawa of the Triangle’s Nippon Club – Chanoyu, and was supported by a mini-grant from the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning. The Department of World Languages and Cultures, the crew from Physical Plant, and the Asian Studies program provided much needed logistical support. 

Four members of the Chanoyu Club dressed in colorful silk kimono and obi waist brocades facilitated the event. Following a few welcoming remarks by Winfield and a short introductory video, Chiyoko Load provided a running commentary to explain the various procedures and symbolic elements of the tea demonstration.

Audience members observed as one tea practitioner, Fusae Newbegin, assumed the role of “guest” and entered into the tea space delineated by five straw tatami mats on the floor and several standing shoji screens. She took a moment to kneel and appreciate the seasonally-appropriate fall flower arrangement, and to read the calligraphic hanging scroll which said, “One time, one meeting” (ichi-go, ichi-e).

This very Zen-inspired sentiment is a reminder to treasure each and every passing moment, and to be mindful and grateful for all the causes and conditions that contribute to the transient beauty of this unique gathering time for tea. 
Then Kazue Kojima, who assumed the role of “host,” methodically warmed the ceramic tea bowl decorated with autumn motifs, and carefully wiped the tea caddy and tea scoop with a folded cloth. She served her guest a mild sweet, and whisked the green tea powder (matcha) with hot water into a frothy and slightly bitter green tea. This thoughtful preparation was accomplished with a quiet and relaxed concentration in keeping with the four principles of tea — harmony, respect, purity and tranquility.  
Then the special guest of honor, President Lambert, was invited with two other guests to taste the delicate balance of bitter-sweet flavors, following the guest’s set protocol for bowing, receiving, turning and drinking from the bowl with both hands. The special bowl that the host selected for Lambert carried the poetic name of “old pine,” as a way of wishing him longevity and strength in his retirement. 
Following these two demonstrations, students in Winfield’s Sages and Samurai class practiced the roles of host and guest in alternating pairs. The one-hour event concluded with a special thanks given to Yoko Iwashima for bringing “the Way of Tea” to campus.

For more information on the Triangle Nippon Club and Chanoyu, visit http://www.trianglejapanclub.org/affiliated_chanoyu.html
For other events in the Asian Studies program this year, contact Xiaolin Duan at xduan@elon.edu.


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