The Diversified Nature and Schools of the Way of Tea
2004.03《茶艺》月刊社论The Editorial of “Tea Culture Monthly”
Some people asked, “When it comes to the Way of Tea, are there different schools in China?” Our answer is affirmative. As long as it prospers in a place, the Way of Tea is almost certain to assume different forms. The differences are not very obvious in China, and there is no assertive effort in the formation of different schools. Meanwhile, people do not mind others tampering with or re-creating existing ideas. In this episode, we seek to illustrate this concept by likening it to a theatrical production whereby audiences hop on to the stage and actively participate.
The scenario goes like this: The theatre is putting on an opera by a certain playwright. The opera, with distinct title, storyline and ideas and thoughts, is very well received. A full-housed production, it has captivated all the audiences who simply hold their breath in awe. Soon after, many of them have grasped hold of the dramatic and musical essence. There is a free flow of ideas in their mind, stimulating their own creative urge. As the plot intensifies, many are seen fidgeting in their seats, while some of them have hopped on to the stage and joined the performance. For a start, these audiences sing and dance along, following largely the style of the original work. However, not longer after, there is a surge of passion and the opera takes on a life of its own, steering away from the original plot. Those who have remained seated are inspired by the new plot – the ideas they have been toying with up until this moment need a stage. Everyone rush up. There is no telling which direction the opera is heading towards — whether it will return to the original track laid down by the original playwright, or it will become an entirely different plot.
Perhaps, you will remark, “I will guard my work in such a way that no one will be able to tamper with it, and change my ideas. “ You may also say with conviction, “My work will win over all the audiences and go down in history as a great one because I have come up with the tightest-knitted plot, compelling ideas and profound thoughts.”
You may be able to refute what the others have said; you may also protect your works by legal means, while you are alive. And yet, you cannot stop others building on the structure you have laid. What’s more, your work will age as time goes by. To make it clearer, if the Way of Tea is an opera, it is one that every can perform in. They can’t stop you scripting or composing it the way you want; but likewise, no one can stop them from preferring and developing a certain part of it. A good script will have more followers performing frequently; a poor one will simply be neglected. With the passage of time, all the scripts will undergo certain degree of amendment. We should not feel sorry about this. The changes will be even more unpredictable with the lapse of time, and when you are gone.
For the Way of Tea, you may script your own, but there’s no stopping of others amending and re-creating what you have completed. What matters most is the source of the biggest influence and the greatest impact, and the reach and duration of such.