Category Archives: 19.‘Emptiness and Solitude’, a Way of Tea-Rong-tsang Tsai

‘Emptiness and Solitude’, a Way of Tea-Rong-tsang Tsai

‘Emptiness and Solitude’, a Way of Tea-Rong-tsang Tsai

谈茶道的「空寂」‘Emptiness and Solitude’, a Way of Tea

蔡荣章Rong-tsang Tsai

2001.02《茶艺》月刊社论The Editorial of “Tea Culture Monthly”

 ‘Emptiness and Solitude’1. is one of the more obscure aesthetic concepts.  Its association to the Way of Tea2. may be rooted in the inherent ‘bitterness’ and ‘astringency’3. of the beverage. To explore this association, let’s try and describe this concept in its aesthetical reference and state.

Simplicity and frugality4., purity and harmony5., emptiness and solitude6. are some of the descriptions associated with the Way of Tea. In Japanese, the word closest in meaning to the phrase ‘emptiness and solitude’ would suggest a kind of sad forlornness or dejection.  Understandably, dejection comes with a sense of loneliness. As it goes, the state of mind of solitude leads to profound tranquility, when one is free from excitement or over stimulation.  In this condition, the blood pressure lowers and the heart beats slow down. Tea drinking in a ‘Tea Hut Setting’7. advocated by tea masters such as Murata Shako8.,Takeno Jogo9.and Sen no Rikyu10. not only signifies humility, but also cultivates the aesthetical state of ‘emptiness and solitude’.

A person in a state of ‘emptiness and solitude’ will have a keener sense of his own existence. What’s more, he will be more sensitive to his relationship with the land, fellow human beings and objects. Training in the state of ‘emptiness and solitude’ helps tea gurus11. in tea brewing and appreciation. This also applies to a group of people brewing and drinking together.  Some even oppose to the playing of music during tea brewing and drinking, in a bid to achieve a condensed experience.  Concentration is expected to add to the ambience.

The equilibrium of daily life is tipped by our emotions. The practice of ‘emptiness and solitude’ will help us guard against emotional turmoil, and protect us by putting us in a space of tranquility. This training will enable one to brew a good pot of tea, be it under the eyes of the public, by the side of a busy road, or in the presence of unfriendly company.

In aesthetics, the training of ‘emptiness and solitude’ aims at transcending the functional side of reality when we look at the world around us.  Take for instance a heap of scrap metal by the roadside.  If we manage to detach ourselves from the opinions such as “from an old house”, “rusty”, “useless”, “hit and be injured”, but rather look at its texture, lines and formation, it may remind us of an award-clinching piece of art that we have come across in an art museum before! This way, the ugly, the mundane and the common will be eliminated by the day. The good and the bad will not be distorted if only we can observe them with calmness.

以下为文内之编码Coding in the text:

1.‘Emptiness and Solitude’「空寂」

2. Way of Tea茶道


4. Simplicity and frugality「精俭」

5. purity and harmony「清和」

6. emptiness and solitude「空寂」.「侘」

7.‘Tea Hut Setting’「草庵式茶席」

8. Murata Shako村田珠光

9. Takeno Jogo武野绍鸥

10.Sen no Rikyu千利休

11.tea gurus茶人

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).