Saturday, July 28, 2007

(sweet cakes and bitter tea)

Yesterday I went to see a chado demonstration at the British Museum out of curiosity. I have read a lot about how subtleties and prescribed mannerisms create a complex system of 'having tea' (even more so than the English afternoon tea with its hordes of china and silvers), so I was feeling quite confident that this would only be a real-life enactment.

How wrong could I be.

a pint-sized teahouse at the British Museum
Before I knew it... I was participating: shoes off, name and nationality declared to the public. Probably the audience did wonder whether I was set as a decoy to ensure audience participation (dark hair, pale skin and all.) Every move was courteous, graceful and calculated... I couldn't help feeling like the clumsy duckling in the group. Moreover, I had 'kimono envy' too, as the practitioners were wearing kimono made out of summer's silk gauze - kimono of this type are hard to come across.

An interesting thing to note is higashi cakes were served to sweeten the palate before the bitter green tea is taken. It does make me wonder whether this gesture stems from an apologetic culture, praising and asking for understanding before divulging a perceived bad news. Reasons aside, I like higashi I would love to keep a canister of them in my room ^__^

A tea ceremony could run for hours; yesterday's demonstration ran for thirty minutes. I tried to sit 'the proper way' throughout the ceremony, and was unsurprisingly rewarded with red and stiff ankles. Now I understand why being a chado practitioner is a highly venerable achievement - sitting so still takes so much self-control! ^.^;

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