Category Archives: 04.The Pure Abstract Aestheticism in Tea Drinking-Rong-tsang Tsai

Rong-tsang Tsai。The Pure Abstract Aestheticism in Tea Drinking
In actual fact, the beauty and realm of the Way of Tea5 can be appreciated by way of brewing and drinking. Nothing is required besides the tea, utensils, technique and experience; the setting, attire and music are all extras that we can do without. If brewing (and whisking, in the case of matcha) is a reflection of both the aesthetics and the realm of tea in the visual form, then drinking is the realization of both in terms of aroma, taste and its nature. Appreciating tea without being distracted by the external environment enables us to focus on what matters the most. This kind of pureness is what we describe as the ‘Pure Abstract Aestheticism in Tea Drinking’6.

This description, however, should not be taken at face value – the purene

The Pure Abstract Aestheticism in Tea Drinking-Rong-tsang Tsai

茶道上纯品茗的抽象之美-The Pure Abstract Aestheticism in Tea Drinking

蔡荣章-Rong-tsang Tsai

(2005.01《茶艺》月刊社论Published in “Tea Art”monthly magazine)

Definition of the Way of Tea1 can be narrowed down to the essential, namely the tea infusion2.  It is all in the infusion, if I may put it this way – its colour, aroma, flavour, nature and appeal epitomize the tea experience. This may be enhanced by the visual enjoyment of the tea-brewing process, and the sensual enjoyment of the brew itself.  Such is the world of tea in the realm of pure, abstract aesthetics.

Since the Way of Tea began to capture massive attention on both sides of the Strait of China and Taiwan in the wake of the 1980’s, we have been hammering home the importance of perfecting the technique in tea brewing, or simply, ‘brewing a good pot’3.  As it goes, tea brewing (and drinking) is the very foundation of the Way of Tea. Should this foundation fail to provide a strong foothold, what is built on it – including but not limited to the art and the thoughts – can at best be crude.

The problem with the idea above is that it may draw the conclusion, if not criticism, that brewing is merely the means to an end, and a medium through which the art and the thoughts are expressed.  As such, in the ‘Motto of a Tea Brewing Master’4, we have qualified the idea – that “Brewing a good pot is physical training for the tea brewer and a path to pursue the Way of Tea” – with the following: that tea brewing is “the essence to the understanding of the realm of tea in a physical manner”.

In actual fact, the beauty and realm of the Way of Tea5 can be appreciated by way of brewing and drinking. Nothing is required besides the tea, utensils, technique and experience; the setting, attire and music are all extras that we can do without.  If brewing (and whisking, in the case of matcha) is a reflection of both the aesthetics and the realm of tea in the visual form, then drinking is the realization of both in terms of aroma, taste and its nature.  Appreciating tea without being distracted by the external environment enables us to focus on what matters the most. This kind of pureness is what we describe as the ‘Pure Abstract Aestheticism in Tea Drinking’6.

This description, however, should not be taken at face value – the pureness is certainly not exclusive to the experience of drinking alone.  Brewing is not highlighted simply because it is perceived by some as more of an action anchored to the material world rather than an experience rooted in the abstract domain. However, the inclusion of brewing must be clearly communicated when we elaborate on the Way of Tea.

The same emphasis on pureness also applies to music.  Whereas ‘absolute’ music is born of pure delight in combining musical tones, and is thus free from association outside of itself; ‘programme’ music, in contrast, refers to its reference to some external ideas of non-musical sources, such as seasons, nature and fate. On the ground of pure abstract appreciation, ‘absolute’ music is preferred. As for the Way of Tea, there is a wide, wide world in the tea infusion alone. The tea ceremony and its setting would lead to another story.

When a delegation of Korean Tea Guru visited us on March 14, 2005, I raised the idea that the beauty and realm of the Way of Tea is all in the tea infusion.  Master Xuanfeng responded by describing this mode of thinking as the ‘Pure’ Way of Tea7.

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以下为文內之编码Coding in the text:

茶道1  the Way of Tea1

茶汤2 tea infusion2

把茶泡好 brewing a good pot3

泡茶师箴言4 Motto of a Tea Brewing Master4

茶道之美、茶道之境5 the beauty and realm of the Way of Tea5

纯品茗的抽象之美6  Pure Abstract Aestheticism in Tea Drinking6

纯茶道7 the ‘Pure’ Way of Tea7

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). (1343)