This post, which focuses on Cha Dao, is the fourth in a series of posts about tea art, tea ceremony, and chado.
In my opinion, tea culture is composed of three parts: material culture, rules and rites, and spiritual culture. Tea art is tea culture at the material level because it focuses on the tea, the water, the vessels, the color, smell, and taste of the tea, and the atmosphere of the tea house. All of these factors stimulate feelings and the senses of sight and smell. High-level tea art may uplift practitioners and guests to some aesthetic ideal, but it does not address the spiritual level, just as metaphysics belongs in the realm of Dao and physics, including art, belongs in the material realm (from the Book of Changes 形而上者谓之道，形而下者谓之器(艺)，周易). The tea ceremony is a ritual with rules that belong on the physical level; thus, it is not Cha Dao. Cha Dao refers to metaphysics, or observing and practicing one’s heart through tea life and cleaning one’s mind, freeing oneself from the mundane and finding real freedom. Cha Dao is the core of tea culture.
However, in contemporary tea life and in most tea books, these main concepts are confused. Some refer to Chinese tea art, while others refer to Chinese Cha Dao. The same is true of the Korean tea ceremony. Fortunately, Japanese Chado does not suffer from this problem because it has been thus called since its beginning. In my opinion, the Cha Dao of Japan is historical. I believe some people still practice “real tea” (or Chado), but most Japanese tea ceremonies are not Cha Dao.
Since China opened its doors and saw the popular Japanese word “Chado,” the phrase “Chinese Cha Dao” became popular in China, especially among so-called tea professionals or experts. From my point of view, China has no real Cha Dao in its history, and there are no substantial historical records to support it. The word “Cha Dao” was rarely used in records. Admittedly, the concept of Cha Dao originated in China, and based on my research, Cha Dao may have appeared in China in the earliest times, but its development and maturation occurred in Japan, according to historical records. Therefore, Cha Dao may have existed in folksy society or among recluses who kept a low profile and were not recorded in historical accounts.
Similar to China, Korea has no Cha Dao, and though it occasionally appears, it is not developed as a whole.
Modern tea life (that is, tea art in China, the tea ceremony in Korea, and Chado in Japan) seems to support my view of different national characteristics. The Chinese are practical; the Koreans are influenced by Confucianism; and the Japanese enjoy exploring the spiritual life. Further, these different national characteristics have influenced the development of tea, and their individual histories have played an important role in the development of tea culture.