Sen No Rikyu Sen

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Last Updated: 27 Jan 2021
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Sen No Rikyu The most influential Japanese tea master in Japan’s history is considered to be Sen No Rikyu. He made the tea ceremony Chanoyu (Way of tea) into an art form. Sen no Rikyu was born in 1522 to the name of Yoshiro in the merchant city of Sakai. Rikyu was born to a prominent family, his father, Yohei, was a city council member (The Japanese Way, 1998) as well as an accomplished merchant. (Above) Sen No Rikyu Developing of Wabi-Cha Wabi-Cha is a Japanese discipline of drinking tea. As stated in the article “Two for Tea”: The “Wabi” refers to the beauty that is found in simple things and Cha means tea. Japan Journal) At a young age Sen No Rikyu began to study tea ceremony under Kitamuki Dochi. During his time with kitamuki Dochi, he studied the elegant tea traditions of Higashiyama, which resembles that of a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and is best suited for a shoin room. (Fujimori, 2007) See link for a brief description of a Shoin Room: http://www. metmuseum. org/toah/works-of-art/shoin_room At the age of 19 Sen No Rikyu began to study under Takeno Jo-o, where he learned the contemporary style of tea ceremony.

This type of tea ceremony was best suited for a smaller room, known as thatched tea house. In the Daitoku-ji temple, located northwest of Kyoto, Rikyu underwent Zen training as a Zen-Buddhist. After his training he changed his name to Sen Soueki (Japanese). By combining these two different methods of tea ceremonies, he was able to create a new foundation for tea ceremonies as declared in the article “Rikyu and the Fruition of the way of tea”: As this indicates, Rikyu first studied with Kitamuki Dochin, who practiced the Higashiyama style of tea that had come down from Noami.

Thereafter, he studied with Joo in the Juko tradition, and by conjoining these two strands, he was able to construct a new basis for the success of Chanoyu. (The Japanese Way, 1998) (Above) Daitoku-Ji temple Daitoku-ji temple Video: http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=XlurloSuiC0 Sen no Rikyu continue to perfect his tea ceremonial style of Wabi and by 1580 he had fashioned what we know today as Wabi-Cha. As acknowledged in “Three Chanoyou and Momoyama: Conflict and transformation in Rikyu art”: A number of tea gatherings were recorded which suggest further development of his inclination toward Wabi sensitivities.

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In the summer of 1577 he held a gathering to open his tea room, probably in Sakai, and invited Matsue Ryusen, Tennojiya Doshitsu, and Tsuda Sogyu; apart from the Koshima bowl, all his tea articles were common and plain, and the meal (kaiseki) was quite simple. The next year he again held a simple gathering in his small room (kozashiki). He continued also to host tea gatherings at which he used the daisu stand, but by 1580 it is clear that he had developed a strong Wabi style. (Tea in Japan, 1998) Thatched tea house Entrance of a Thatched tea house

Tea ceremony For a full description a of Thatched tea house build by Sen no Rikyu see the first three minutes of this YouTube video: http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=WboHExBcKSg Success as tea master From a young age Sen No Rikyu was a talented tea ceremony host, this is known through the evidence of people writing about his tea ceremonial talent. As stated in the article: “Tea and council: The political role of Sen Rikyu”: A rich Nara merchant recorded in his diary that he had attended a tea ceremony hosted by the fifteen-year-old Rikyu.

This shows that the boy must have been sufficiently accomplished to serve tea to such an important man and that already at this age he had successfully entered the exclusive circle of the powerful commercial elite. (Bordat, 1977) There isn’t a great deal of information about Rikyu middle years. What it’s know is that he continue to developed his tea ceremony methods and became popular among other tea masters of Sakai.

As stated in the article “Three Chanoyu and Momoyama: Conflict and Transformation in Rikyu’s Art”: When Rikyu invited his teacher Joo to a gathering in 1544, just seven months before Joo's death, he used a Korean tea bowl, a kettle with a pattern of clouds and dragons, a Hotei incense container, a Kinrinji tea caddy, and a water jug of Shigaraki earthenware, and displayed a painting by Mu Ch'i with his own inscription in the alcove. These were all suitably valuable articles to show that Rikyu was in the first rank of Sakai tea men.

A decade later Rikyu hosted a gathering with Imai Sokyu as the only guest, and Sokyu's account shows that Rikyu continued to collect and use famous and valuable articles; he placed a Semehimo kettle in the hearth, narcissus flowers in the highly-prized Tsuru no Hitokoe flower vase, and used a Shigaraki water jug, a Korean tea bowl, and the celebrated Narashiba Katatsuki tea caddy which had been beloved by Torii Insetsu and was afterward passed to Shimai Soshitsu of Hakata and, finally, to Hideyoshi (I should discuss about him later on).

The available records thus make clear that Rikyu from an early age shared with the other Sakai tea men a liking for the collection and display of valuable articles, and he developed his aesthetic sense in accordance with his training in the Higashiyama tradition. (Ludwig, 1989) Below are two of Sen No Rikyu best saying: Though many people drink tea, if you do not know the Way of Tea, tea will drink you up. and The Way of Tea is naught but this: first you boil water, then you make the tea and drink it. Sen No Rikyu and his political rise.

Even though Sen No Rikyu was a well known tea master, he never serve tea to the most powerful Daimyo of the region Oda Nobunaga, as stated in the article “Three Chanyu and Momoyama: Conflict and Transformation Rikyu’s Art”: Rikyu never attained such importance with Nobunaga, perhaps because his merchant family was not as powerful in Sakai. Approximately in 1570 Sen no Rikyu was introduced to Oda Nobunaga, during this period Nobunaga was attempting the unification of Japan. Nobunaga who popularized Sen no Rikyu tea ceremony used it originally as a way to talk politics and business. Oda Nobunaga Biography) Rikyu along with Imai Sokyu, and Tsuda Sogyu, were placed in charge of tea ceremonies for Nobunaga. By 1575 Rikyu was acting tea master for Nobunaga as stated in the article “Three Chanoyou and Momoyama: Conflict and transformation in Rikyu art”: At a victory celebration after in 1575, Nobunaga turned to chanoyu and hosted a deluxe gathering at Myokoji Temple, inviting seventeen tea men from Kyoto and Sakai to display and use his many treasured tea articles.

Rikyu's role in this sumptuous ceremony is indicated in Shincho Koki by the phrase "sado wa Soeki," showing that Rikyu acted as tea master for Nobunaga. (Ludwig, 1989). (Above) Oda Nobunaga Rikyu continue to gain prestige above the other two tea master, mostly due to Nobunaga’s preference for Rikyu as he had become his secretary and highly trusted middleman. (Bodart, 1977) During this same period Rikyu was an established merchant that supported Nobunaga’s campaign as stated in the essay “Tea in Japan”: In a letter from Nobunaga address to Rikyu there is this note of thanks for a thousand musket balls.

As Nobunaga continue to gain land he wanted to transform Chanoyu into his own possession (Kamakura, 1989), causing it to become a national practice, as it was way of showing Nobunaga’s supremacy. In 1582 Oda Nobunaga was assassinated, after a power struggle Toyotomi Hideyoshi claim most of Nobunaga’s clan and land. During this period Rikyu ingenuity ascended to new heights as well as his political power.

In 1585 for the first time tea was formally presented to the Emperor, Emperor Ogimachi, at the Imperial Palace. As Rikyu didn’t posses rank or status he could not attend the ceremony, this issue was solve and is best describe in the essay “Sen No Rikyu: Inquiries into his life”: In order to be admitted into the palace either to have such as high rank and office, or alternatively, to assume the status of a priest who transcendent lay distinctions.

Thus Rikyu took the priestly designation of Koji (Buddhist Layman) It is also believe that at this time Rikyu rose from one of many tea master to become Tenka Gosado “the tea master of Japan. (Bodart, 1977) (Above) Toyotomi Hideyoshi During Hideyoshi reign Rikyu political power increase so much so that he played a central role as stated in the article “Three Chanyu and Momoyama: Conflict and Transformation Rikyu’s Art”:With Hideyoshi in control, the political use of the leading tea masters continued, and Rikyu played a central role.

This can be seen from his letters of 1584 and 1585, which show he was well informed of Hideyoshi's plans in the campaign against Oda Nobukatsu's and Tokugawa Ieyasu's forces and the Etchu campaign against the Sassa, took a deep interest in these military affairs, and was even given responsibility in the custody of Osaka. (Ludwig, 1989) (Above) Osaka Castle Sen No Rikyu Death Rikyu became more than a tea master to Hideyoshi, he was often an advisor on other matters. Hideytoshi allow Rikyu to maintain his independence, but disagreements cause their relationship to fail.

It is believe that when Rykyu refused Hideyoshi’s request to take Rikyu’s daughter as a concubine, the relationship broke and never recovered. (Zen)In 1591 Hideyoshi eventually order Rikyu to commit Seppuku (Ritual suicide) the true reasons are not know but according to the Article “Zen stories of Samurai”: Tradition holds that Hideyoshi was infuriated when he entered the gate of Daitoku-ji temple (whose construction he had funded) and saw that he was walking under a statue of Rikyu  Just before his death, Rikyu called together his family and disciples.

He then composed his death poem. I raise the sword. This sword of mine; Long in my possession. The time is come at last. Skyward I throw it up! Sen No Rikyu Legacy Sen No Rikyu legacy can still be seen today in Japanese tea ceremonies. As he perfected the “Way of Tea” this cause all of the earlier styles of tea ceremonies to vanished with Rikyu death. Today all modern styles of tea ceremonies can be traced directly or indirectly to Rikyu. After his death Rikyu family scattered and when into hiding as stated in the article “A rief History of Chanoyu”: Though the family had been scattered and were in hiding in the residences of various generals , his son Shoan and grandson Sotan, succeeded in reestablishing the family name and reassembling their possessions. They began their task by rebuilding the Zangetsutei and Fushinan tea houses at Ogawa Teranouchi in Kyoto. Today three Sen families exists, this families continue the tradition of holding a memorial service every month at the mutual family temple. (A Brief) (Above) Sen No Rikyu Grave A timeline of the Chonoyu can be view at this link: ttp://www. tea-passage. com/timeline. html Reference A Brief history of chanoyu. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://cla. calpoly. edu/~bmori/syll/Hum310japan/Tea%20History. html Bodart, B. M. (1977). Tea and counsel. the political role of sen rikyu. Monumenta Nipponica, 32(1), FUJIMORI, T. (2007, August). Two for tea. Retrieved from http://www. japanjournal. jp/tjje/show_art. php? INDyear=07;INDmon=08;artid=f163e1f847cf981422ef0f1ccc Kumakura, Isao. (1989). Sen no rikyu: inquiries into his life and tea. Tea in Japan: Essays on the History of Chanoyu, 33.

Ludwig, T. M. (1989). Tea in japan: essays on the history of chanoyu.. Honolulu HI: University of Hawaii Press. Oda nobunaga biography. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://www. biographybase. com/biography/Oda_Nobunaga. html The Japanese way of tea: from its origins in china to sen rikyu. (1998). Honolulu HI: University of Hawaii Press. Tea in Japan: essays on the history of chanoyu. (1998). Honolulu HI: University of Hawaii Press. Zen stories of the samurai . (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://www. zenstoriesofthesamurai. com/Characters/Sen%20no%20Rikyu. htm

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