SBP Blog

Stone Bridge Cafe: "The Tea Master"

Intern Intern - Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Stone Bridge Cafe is a bi-weekly online series from Stone Bridge Press devoted to bringing readers short stories, poems, non-fiction pieces, photographs, and artwork from and/or about East Asia. For submission guidelines and info, follow the link at the bottom of this post.

On the menu this week is a simple yet poetic historical short story by Lynn B. Connor about Japanese aesthetics, the beauty of nature's imperfections, and the relationship between a father and son. The story is inspired by and expands upon a legend (that has several versions) about the Japanese tea master and philosopher Sen no Rikyu (1522-1592), who understood the role of a cup of tea in a wise and calm life. Shoan (1546-1614), the adopted son of Rikyu, also became a tea master. 
 
☀☀☀
 
Rikyu, the tea master, was a fortunate man. He had a small house just for serving tea to his friends. It sat at the end of a path that wound through a small, peaceful garden. Added to this good fortune, he had a son, Shoan, who wanted to be a tea master, too. Together they prepared for guests.
 
Rikyu chose a scroll to hang—a painting of grasses with a poem:
 
in the mid-day heat
silence—not even a breeze
the garden naps
 
Beneath it, he placed a single blossom in a vase. Next he chose a simple kettle, water jar, and tea bowls. Each different, but still in harmony with the others.
 
As Rikyu prepared things in the teahouse, Shoan readied the garden. He picked up the dead leaves that had fallen on the moss. He plucked brown leaves from the trees and bushes, then swept the stepping stone path.
 
Rikyu went out to inspect the garden, shook his head no, and went back inside.
 
Shoan did not know what to do. He looked to see if he had missed a brown leaf or a twig on the path. There were none. Perhaps there were too many bright pink flowers on the camellia bush and it disturbed the harmony and quiet of the garden. He carefully removed some of the blossoms, so the bush did not shout with color and the beauty of each blossom could be enjoyed. Shoan looked again at the garden, sure his father would now be pleased, and called him to come inspect the garden.
 
Rikyu came out and walked along the path. Again he shook his head no and turned to go in.
 
Disappointed and confused, Shoan asked, “Father, what is wrong with the garden? I have done everything you have taught me.”
 
“There is still something for you to learn,” Rikyu replied and walked over to a brilliant red maple shimmering in the cool fall breeze. He shook it gently. A few red leaves floated down to the sunlit green moss. Rikyu turned to his son, “You cleaned the garden too well. It doesn’t look natural,” and went inside.
 
Rikyu looked around the tearoom, just as he had the garden. Something seemed wrong. He called to Shoan, “Come check my preparations.” Shoan was pleased to be asked. He looked carefully around the room: “Father, the scroll does not seem right. It does not have the feeling of an autumn day.” Rikyu chose another scroll—dry leaves falling from a bare branch with a poem:
 
the chill of autumn air
a cup of tea
warms friendships
 
Shoan returned to the garden and sprinkled the stepping stone path with water. Now all was ready for guests.
 
Rikyu smiled and thought, “My son will be a good tea master.”


(Sen no Rikyu)

 
☀☀☀
With undergraduate and graduate degrees in East Asian history, Lynn B. Connor planned to be an academic. However, that idea was short-lived. There was not much of a demand for someone who enjoyed translating classical Chinese poetry. Finally, she realized that sharing stories that explore other times and places with children (and grownups, too) is what she really wanted to do. Visit her website here: www.lynnbconnor.com. Head photo courtesy of 

Ed McVicker.  

 

Subscribe to our mailing list to be automatically entered to win a copy of Japaneseness: A Guide to Values and Virtues, a little book that offers readers a provocative tour through seventy-six core life concepts that are at the foundation of Japanese behavior, belief, and beauty. Throughout the book, author Yoji Yamakuse raises an intriguing question: Can traditional Japanese values—like loyalty, meticulousness, sensitivity, reverence, hierarchy, trust, and harmony—make sense in modern Western societies? Definitely worth a read—good luck!

 
If you would like to submit your own work to Stone Bridge Cafe, follow this link for submission info and guidelines: http://www.stonebridge.com/sbp-blog/stone-bridge-cafe-guidelines-submission-info

Like our blog? Please share it!

Categories

Subscribe to the SBP Mailing List

New Releases

Amy’s Guide to Best Behavior in Japan


Going to Japan? This unfussy modern guide guarantees you keep it polite and get it right!

Exploring Kyoto


This revised and updated edition of the Japan travel classic and cultural guide gets you wandering from downtown quarters to remote mountaintop temples and features expanded information on new museums and gardens now open year-round for viewing.


Japanese Garden Notes


Marc Peter Keane's personal journey through 100 Japanese gardens, looking at them with a designer’s eye.

My Year of Dirt and Water


Married to a Zen monk in training, an American woman in Japan chronicles her own year of growth and discovery.

Tag Cloud

World War II AAS Interview matcha travel Japan gaijin pot Chinese culture pottery how to travel in japan kansuke naka internment japan restaurant guide The Colorado Review Japanese art World War Two suicide understandind china through comics seppuku new books Christianity in Japan China Children's Literature Chiune Sugihara Basho Japanese holidays japanese culture memoir, tracy franz, zen monk, buddhist university of chicago 1960's Japan japanese literature bowing in japan Language hiroaki sato eating in japan Asian Studies holocaust photography Japan History book review the silver spoon Basho's Narrow Road Chinese history zen monk book tour Korea photography Coming of Age Day japan travel drinking in japan Art/Design gaijinpot Travel japan custom behavior Nikolas Bunton zen japan memoir manners chinese comics Spring Festival Second World War Translation Spirituality book hoarding 1960s Korea review non-fiction gratitude in japan world literature today Christianity tea japan etiquette wife Okinawan literature buddhist Chinese Astrology literary prize japanese drunk tracy franz stone bridge press osamu dazai haibun japanese travel no longer human in the woods of memory japanese customs WWII Ukiyo-e etiquette reviews japanese people asia award mark gibeau Shoah Japanese literature japanese etiquette tourist stone bridge cafe yukio mishima haiku Year of the Dog takuma sminkey author tour green tea william f sibley memoir jing liu shun medoruma Korea monk a shameful life astrology Poetry diary Children's Books danica davidson center of east asian studies amy chavez tea garden books Japanese aesthetics Chinese New Year otakuusa Anime/Manga/Comics Culture religion
RSS