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Customer Review

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wild but a Stimulating and Inspiring Introduction to the Tea Ceremony, 13 July 2014
This review is from: The Book of Tea (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
It’s difficult to know where to begin with this book so I think I’ll better start by saying that I brought it because I was interested in the tea ceremony, because this was a short volume and because it was a penguin classic, I assumed it must have some merit. The scope of the book covers a brief history of tea making, a brief introduction to Taoism and “Zenism” to provide a background to the aesthetic/philosophic concerns of the tea ceremony and ultimately covers the tea room/house and the ceremony itself. However this description of the content does not do the book justice in the slightest. The book is written in the style of a polemist thrusting their knowledge in your face. It is full of errors over the spellings of names as if the author was just enthusiastically putting all their knowledge on paper eager to say something. Subjects are quickly passed over for fear that momentum would be lost by getting bogged down in such details. On top of this I think it a wonder that “east meets west in a teacup” given what Kakuzo Okakura has to say about the savagery and snobbery of Europeans in the 1st chapter. I wonder why a western reader would want to meet with eastern writer in a teacup after such a tirade. There is no doubt about it, Okakura’s prose style is wild and to a certain degree I have to admit its aggression and florid wildness is a bit off-putting, but at the same time it is far from a dull and although a reader my feel that the sections on Taoism and “Zenism” are superficial, what has been written has much inspirational power. I have to say that I am tempted to run off now and by a copy of Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu based on the ideas as they are presented by Okakura, i.e. with passion, interest and enthusiasm. The sections on the tea house and art appreciation are equally inspiring emphasizing asymmetry and incompleteness unleash the imagination’s need for complete the incomplete, and in that sense Okakura’s prose reflects this, with the result that reading this book like opening a can of worms, with ideas issuing forth that can send you off in a myriad of directions.

I think the choice of whether to buy this book or another book on the tea ceremony should be based on whether you want a book that keeps to the immediate issues of how to perform a ceremony or not. This does not mean that this is a bad book, it is far from that, but it is a book to be read for its own sake and not just to read for what you intended to get out of it.
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