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Cool Japan / Sen no Rikyu (千利休)

(Sen no Rikyu (千利休) Stone statue / Sakai Museum, Osaka)

Sen no Rikyu (千利休, 1522 - April 21, 1591, also known simply as Sen Rikyu), is considered the historical figure with the most profound influence on chanoyu, the Japanese "Way of Tea", particularly the tradition of wabi-cha. Rikyu is known by many names; for convenience this article will refer to him as Rikyu throughout.
There are three iemoto (soke), or "head houses" of the Japanese Way of Tea, that are directly descended from Rikyu: the Omotesenke, Urasenke, and Mushakojisenke, all three of which are dedicated to passing forward the teachings of their mutual family founder, Rikyu.
http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTn_vUDr7JdQaW4LFaTppFgEomB-MmU9COxtGAj61z2bNAEqpq9drOC8LM6 http://pds.exblog.jp/pds/1/201108/22/20/c0189020_15551923.jpg
(Sen no Rikyu)

In 1579, at the age of 58 , Rikyu became a tea master for Oda Nobunaga and, following Nobunaga's death in 1582, he was a tea master for Toyotomi Hideyoshi. His relationship with Hideyoshi quickly deepened, and he entered Hideyoshi's circle of confidants, effectively becoming the most influential figure in the world of chanoyu. In 1585, in order that he could help at a tea gathering that would be given by Hideyoshi for Emperor Ogimachi and held at the Imperial Palace, the emperor bestowed upon him the Buddhist lay name and title "Rikyu Koji" (利休居士). Another major chanoyu event of Hideyoshi's that Rikyu played a central role in was the Kitano Ochanoyu, the grand tea gathering held by Hideyoshi at the Kitano Tenman-gu in 1587.
(The Kitano Ochanoyu)

It was during his later years that Rikyu began to use very tiny, rustic tea rooms referred as soan (lit., "grass hermitage"), such as the two-tatami tea room named Taian, which can be seen today at Myokian temple in Yamazaki, a suburb of Kyoto, and which is credited to his design. This tea room has been designated as a National Treasure. He also developed many implements for tea ceremony, including flower containers, teascoops, and lid rests made of bamboo, and also used everyday objects for tea ceremony, often in novel ways.
(Sen-ke / Fushin-an)

Raku teabowls were originated through his collaboration with a tile-maker named Raku Chojiro. Rikyu had a preference for simple, rustic items made in Japan, rather than the expensive Chinese-made items that were fashionable at the time. Though not the inventor of the philosophy of wabi-sabi, which finds beauty in the very simple, Rikyu is among those most responsible for popularizing it, developing it, and incorporating it into tea ceremony. He created a new form of tea ceremony using very simple instruments and surroundings. This and his other beliefs and teachings came to be known as sōan-cha (the grass-thatched hermitage style of chanoyu), or more generally, wabi-cha. This "line" of chanoyu that his descendants and followers carried on was recognized as the Senke-ryu (千家流, "school of the house of Sen").

A writer and poet, the tea master referred to the ware and its relationship with the tea ceremony, saying "Though you wipe your hands and brush off the dust and dirt from the vessels, what is the use of all this fuss if the heart is still impure?"
(Nanpo roku (南方録))

Two of his primary disciples were Nanbo Sokei (南坊宗啓; dates unknown), a somewhat legendary Zen priest, and Yamanoue Soji (1544–90), a townsman of Sakai. Nanbo is credited as the original author of the Nanpo roku (南方録), a record of Rikyu's teachings. Yamanoue's chronicle, the Yamanoue Soji ki (山上宗二記), gives commentary about Rikyu's teachings and the state of chanoyu at the time of its writing.
(Yamanoue Soji ki (山上宗二記))

Rikyu had a number of children, including a son known in history as Sen Doan, and daughter known as Okame. This daughter became the bride of Rikyu's second wife's son by a previous marriage, known in history as Sen Shoan. Due to many complex circumstances, Sen Shoan, rather than Rikyu's legitimate heir, Doan, became the person counted as the 2nd generation in the Sen-family's tradition of chanoyu (see "san-Senke" at schools of Japanese tea ceremony).
Rikyu also wrote poetry, and practiced ikebana.

By TS on Jan 7, 2012
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Author:T. SATOH