Here is a new edition of this classic written in 1906 by Okakura Kakuzo (1862-1913) who was born in Japan but served as Curator of the Department of Chinese and Japanese art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Originally written to be read aloud by the author at Isabella Stewart Gardner's famous salon, The Book of Tea presents an elegant glimpse into the culture that engendered the Eastern aesthetic. The text is enhanced with photos by Daniel Proctor and an introduction by Liza Dalby, author of Geisha.
The tea ceremony has pervaded Japanese culture since ancient times. This simple and elegant practice used by Buddhist monks and passed on to others emphasizes harmony, reverence, purity, and tranquility. "Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage. . . . The fifteenth century saw Japan ennoble it into a religion of aestheticism Teaism," writes Kakuzo.
Whether commenting on the bubbles while water boils, the intricate simplicity of the tearoom, or the beauty of flowers, the author revels in the small details that contribute to the blending of art and life. One of the most memorable lines in the book is, "The art of life lies in the constant readjustment to our surroundings." Yes, and that remains one of the major challenges of our times.