Zen and the art of tea-the classic book about the Japanese tea ceremony that is as much a guide to life.
Ritualized, romantic, and historically rich, the tea ceremony is the creation of something beautiful out of the everyday. Originally written in English more than a hundred years ago to be read aloud at Isabella Stewart Gardner's famous salon, The Book of Tea presents the meeting of East and West in a teacup. It explores Asian culture through the history and aestheticism-or "teaism"-of the tea ceremony and also suggests a deep connection between beauty and war, and between flowers and social mores. In its formality, attention to detail, and celebration of beauty and harmony, the tea ceremony encapsulates the Japanese view of life-in fact, the art of life.
Kakuzo Okakura (1862-1913) was a founder of the first Japanese fine arts academy, the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. He came to America in 1904, and in 1910 became the first head of the Asian art division at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Christopher Benfey is Mellon Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College and a critic for The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, and The New York Review of Books.
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