Category Archives: 14.From the Concept of the Abstract to the Learning of the Way of Tea-Rong-tsang Tsai

From the Concept of the Abstract to the Learning of the Way of Tea-Rong-tsang Tsai

From the Concept of the Abstract to the Learning of the Way of Tea-Rong-tsang Tsai

從「茶道學習」到「抽象概念的產生」From the Concept of the Abstract to the Learning of the Way of Tea

蔡荣章Rong-tsang Tsai

(The Editorial of “Tea Culture Monthly” Aug,2002 )

Now that we realize the relationship between the Way of Tea 1 and the Abstract Art, we will need to understand the abstract.  The figurative is way outnumbered by the abstract in this universe – if we comprehend nothing but just the recognizable, we are as good as half-blind or partially-deaf.

We hope that tea aficionados 2 can take the abstract – realization of the concept and appreciation of the art – in a serious manner. This is the sure way to understanding and acceptance, be it the oddly shaped tea ware, free-form tea bowls or tea pots, walls made with straw and mud for tea presentation, or the bare structure of thatched huts 3. With the abstract concept in mind, we will be able to communicate ideas and create the aspired space for sharing with the ensemble of tea utensils, the process of tea brewing and drinking, the décor and setting of the tea room, and the tea leaves and tea infusion 4.

To establish the concept of the abstract, we must free ourselves from the restriction of known forms.  When we see a mountain, we should not be concentrating on its physical likeness (resembling a cat or dog, for instance). When we visit a natural stone exhibition, we should not be asking if the exhibits look like the Goddess of Mercy or the mighty Luo Han. Our attention should not be marred by the physical function of objects and beings. When we are doing figure painting in the studio, our focus should be given solely to the aesthetics of the human profile and the texture of skin.  Taking this a step further, we should transcend known functionality.  Forget about the market being a place where you get your fish and meat; but rather, turn your attention to the chopping block that has survived the test of time – observe the now washed block with unique wood rings and grain lying idle on the butcher’s counter in the quiet market when the butcher and the customers have gone home.  Last, we must also discard any idea about structure and form that we have been taking as a matter of fact.  Who is to decide that the sprout must be at the side of a tea pot, instead of further up, or lower down? By the same token, why should tea bowls be round and not otherwise?

With the above shift of perception and training, we will be able to venture into the creation and appreciation of the aesthetics in terms of lines, colours and texture, and nothing else. This is the case with images, and equally so with music. There is no clear line between the abstract and the figurative.  The key lies in recognition – before we recognize an object, our perception tends to be abstract. That is why when we first came across a bowl without prior knowledge of it, the abstract perception overpowered that of the figurative. However, once we recognized it, our perception would move towards the figurative. This is not unlike someone involved in abstract art – once he became familiar with his own abstract vocabulary, what he sees and hears will become familiar sights and sounds.”

Our scope of recognition expands as time goes by.  Our world expands with it, so to say. An awareness and openness to the ‘abstract’ will fuel the continuous renewal of our sensory and thought experience, which is also the basis to a masterful command of the Way of Tea.

以下为文內之编码Coding in the text:

茶道1 the Way of Tea 1

茶者2 tea aficionados 2

草庵3 thatched huts 3

茶汤4 tea infusion 4

Introduction:The aesthetics, character and the state of mind created are not to be undermined in the understanding and enjoyment of tea; and yet, they are the hardest to express.  Writings on the thoughts pertaining to tea, regardless of languages used, remain scarce.  We have attempted to express them in Chinese, with accompanying English translation(Translator:Katherine Yip.2010.01), to elaborate our thoughts as they are. What we want is to share the knowledge of tea alongside tea drinking.  This is, in our opinion, an important contemporary task in promoting the tea culture (Coding in the text is for cross-referencing of the academic terms of tea).