Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Book of Tea

By Kakuzo Okakura

In 1906 in turn-of-the century Boston, a small, esoteric book about tea was written with the intention of being read aloud in the famous salon of Isabella Gardner, Boston's most famous socialite. It was authored by Okakura Kakuzo, a Japanese philosopher, art expert, and curator. Little known at the time, Kakuzo would emerge as one of the great thinkers of the early 20th century, a genius who was insightful, witty and greatly responsible for bridging Western and Eastern cultures. Okakura had been taught at a young age to speak English and was more than capable of expressing to Westerners the nuances of tea and the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
In The Book of Tea Classic Edition he discusses such topics as Zen and Taoism, but also the secular aspects of tea and Japanese life. The book emphasizes how Teaism taught the Japanese many things; most importantly, simplicity. Kakuzo argues that tea-induced simplicity affected the culture, art and architecture of Japan.

While this book is, as the title suggests, a book about tea, it is also a beautiful book of philosophy that I found engaging and thought-provoking. Eastern culture has always held a fascination to me, especially themes of simplicity. This book is both a book about the history of tea and the way that it shaped a culture and brought to life the idea of living in the moment and seeing the beauty in simplicity and individuality. I loved how Okakura shows the differences between western and eastern culture and thought. Reading this book was a highlight of my year and I’m adding it to my favorites with books like “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen.

I give it a 4.25 out of 5 

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