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Book of Tea [Hardcover]

Kakuzo Okakura
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
RRP: £13.99
Price: £12.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

7 Feb 2006
Written in English in 1906 (exactly 100 years ago), this seminal text on the meaning and practice of the tea ceremony was a pioneering effort in cultural bridge-building between East and West. Okakura perceived cha-no-yu - literally "Way of Tea" - as a form of spiritual culture: a discipline that transforms itself into an 'art of life' rooted in the religious values of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. It encompasses an appreciation of the most ordinary details of daily life, and at its core lies a moral geometry that keeps us mindful of our place in the greater scheme of the universe. "The Book of Tea" may have been written one hundred years ago, but it continues to resonate as deeply with readers today as it did when it was written.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha International Ltd (7 Feb 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770030142
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770030146
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.8 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 359,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

That a nation should construct one of its most resonant national ceremonies round a cup of tea will surely strike a chord of sympathy with at least some readers of this review. To many foreigners, nothing is so quintessentially Japanese as the tea ceremony--more properly, "the way of tea"--with its austerity, its extravagantly minimalist stylisation and its concentration of extreme subtleties of meaning into the simplest of actions. The Book of Tea is something of a curiosity: written in English by a Japanese scholar (and issued here in bilingual form) it was first published in 1906, in the wake of the naval victory over Russia with which Japan asserted its rapidly-acquired status as a world-class military power. It was a peak moment of Westernisation within Japan. Clearly, behind the publication was an agenda, or at least a mission to explain. Around its account of the ceremony The Book of Tea folds an explication of the philosophy, first Taoist, later Zen Buddhist, that informs its oblique celebration of simplicity and directness--what Okakura calls, in a telling phrase, "moral geometry". And the ceremony itself? Its greatest practitioners have always been philosophers, but also artists, connoisseurs, collectors, gardeners, calligraphers, gourmets, flower-arrangers. The greatest of them, Sen Rikyu, left a teasingly, maddeningly simple set of rules: "Make a delicious bowl of tea; lay the charcoal so that it heats the water; arrange the flowers as they are in the field; in summer suggest coolness; in winter, warmth; do everything ahead of time; prepare for rain; and give those with whom you find yourself every consideration." A disciple remarked that this seemed elementary. Rikyu replied, "Then if you can host a tea gathering without deviating from any of the rules I have just stated, I will become your disciple." A Zen reply. Fascinating. --Robin Davidson --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


."..The best introduction to Oriental life and perception in English." --TEA A Magazine

"The Book of Tea is beautifully designed and will make an excellent small gift, especially since tea has become fashionable." --New Age Retailer

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty ritualized 16 May 2002
This little booklet, written in 1906, is still one of the absolute classics on the Japanese tea ceremony. This essay about Japanese culture as it is epitomized in the "way of tea" (chadô) also served as an apology for Eastern traditions at large to the Western world. Okakura was a practitioner, art critic and connoisseur, and a collaborator of Fenellosa and his circle, who introduced Japanese art in the United States. Although detailed technical information about the ceremony is avoided, the latter's historical background as well as its relation to Japanese attitudes, Zen, Tao, art and art appreciation are treated in a suggestive and essayistic vein. The way of tea appears as a "moral geometry" embodying particular values than a particular set of beliefs. There is, thus, a "philosophy of tea", at least in the sense that the practice of tea wholly constitutes a "form of life".
The book was written in a graceful, clear and precise English, which is in itself a remarkable feat.
Amateurs of the way of tea should combine this reading with more detailed studies such as Sadler's, Shositsu Sen's and Horst Hammitzsch's, or the academic and up to date study by Jennifer Anderson.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
For anyone interested in Asian, and particularly Japanese, culture, this book is a must. By following the history of tea and its role in the spiritual and cultural development of Japan, this slim volume gives the reader remarkable insight into the Japanese mind. Written with a keen sense of humor, the Book of Tea is very readable and entertaining, while at the same time illustrating the Japanese passion for the simple. This version is a quality translation, and you cannot beat the price. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Japan, Buddhism, Taoism, or tea.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars go with the flow 8 Feb 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
I spotted this in passing looking for another Japanese author. Seeing the high rating I decided to give it a go, although I usually drink coffee. I read it over two evenings, a can't put down - tea cup in hand. I admit finding it a short, fascinating and succinct account about the tea ceremony, and the interplay of Taoism, Zen Buddhism and Confucianism in the early development of Japan and China. That might seem a little bland for current tastes. However the written style pulls the reader along, as though on a crest of a wave. Although written in English, it seems quite unlike the typical western literature style of a century ago. Lyrical yet concise, I suspect this flowing text a polished Taoist style; as is explained Tao is all about movement. It is never dull irrespective of the topic on the page.
Why just four stars? The artistry and individualism of the tea masters must surely have been balanced by a rigid enforced code of conformity on the part of the recipient tea drinkers. The author's pride over the artistic perfectionism of the Tea ceremony I can accept. The direct criticism of Western culture in comparison I find less palatable. In this I had an uneasy scent of cultural and religious elitism, nationalism not far away. It ultimately smacks of intolerance, or is that too strong? I would invite the author around to argue over a cup of tea!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars FAKE BOOK 29 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is not a real print. It is fake copy, and a very bad fake at that. Looks like its been printed on a regular printer and cheaply laminated and stapled together!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great content but poor quality book. 22 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I ordered this as a gift for a friend who is a tea lover but I was very disappointed by the quality of the product I received. It is pretty much a digital colour copy of the book. The image on the front cover is pixelated because of the poor resolution. I have bought another edition of this book for £1 more which was proper print quality and included extra notes. The other edition has a brown cover with an image within a square on the cover.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very imformative 6 Mar 2012
By JLea
The language used it beautiful, poetic in parts, and has made me look at tea in a whole new light.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a book! 23 Sep 2011
By Val
I wasn't sure what to expect from 'The Book of Tea', but I was so pleasantly surprised. It is beautifully written, and thoroughly fascinating. The author not only describes in detail the evolution of tea drinking and tea ceremonies in Asia over the centuries, but also articulately contrasts eastern and western cultures with respect to attitudes towards aesthetics and beauty. His description of the Japanese attitude towards flowers and floral displays is simply poetic.

I would recommend this to anybody who is interested in Asian religious and cultural development, or in the varying cultural perceptions of beauty.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It changed me... 4 July 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
First, it is written in a beautiful language, more rare these days, making you feel like you hold a treasure in your hands - and you do! Just by reading, you will sense how true is what the author is expressing. It will make you question the western world, and you will want to live simply and deeply. It is my treasure.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars So? You're British and think you know about tea then do you?
Not a chance. I thought I was quite knowledgeable on Tea until i read this. It's a minefield of excellent informative biz in there. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sáss Alæssí
5.0 out of 5 stars A poetic meditation on Tea (and the art of living)
Beautifully written tale of the history and culture of Teaism. A short book with not one superfluous word, also covering some of the key tenets of Zen and Taoism, intricately and... Read more
Published 3 months ago by olive tree
1.0 out of 5 stars Definitely NOT!
This book is not about tea, or the China I know. It is vapid, florid and irrelevant and a total waste of paper. If you have one do the world a favour and recycle it. Read more
Published 9 months ago by D. L. George
5.0 out of 5 stars Tea will never seem the same again!
This book is a poetic and fascinating delight. I prefer coffee but after reading this I wish I loved tea as much as I love this book.
Published 11 months ago by Ambrose
4.0 out of 5 stars Beauty in Every Simple Detail of Life
This is a delightful book. It's as useful today as it was when it was written in 1906.

Finding beauty in every simple detail of daily life is what this work is all... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Paul Prifti
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, great service
We had bought this book years ago and have given it often as a gift to friends. Inspiring and thought provoking.
Published 13 months ago by Helen Walker
2.0 out of 5 stars TEA LIGHT
A small book which skirts around the issue of the tea ceremony. Lots of superfluous detail but LIGHT on the facts I was seemingly Zen and the influence of the art of tea making.
Published 13 months ago by Mr. P J. Laggan
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