Continued from Chanoyu, Temae, and Chadogu – Part 1

The Low-Ranking Chadogu Are as Important as the Higher-Ranking Chadogu

Steeped in the tradition of Chanoyu is the Japanese cultural understanding and historical perception of a strict social code of ranking class.  

You may already know that in the 12th century, the onset of the Japanese Tea Ceremony was only for the social elite.  History reveals, however, that Chanoyu was eventually introduced to the common classes.  

Although Chanoyu was created for the common citizen, the understanding of social rank persisted in the Japanese culture.  So, when this deeply-seeded perception of social rank merged with the philosophy of Chanoyu, so too did the teaching of Chadōgu social status.

The value and cost of a Chadōgu has no bearing on a tea instrument ranking.  On the contrary, its foundation lies in how the tool is to be used and regarded during the tea ceremony.  Its rank defines how the tool is held, carried, and placed during the tea ceremony – all in relation to higher-ranking tools and guests in the tea room.  It even denotes how the utensil is stored at the end of the tea ceremony.  

High-ranking tools are always displayed closer to the esteemed guest, higher on the display and storage shelf, and handled with greater deference during the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

There are specific ways to determine a Chadōgu‘s low-ranking status:

  • A low-ranking Chadōgu is generally held with only one hand by the host
  • A low-ranking Chadōgu will be brought last to and removed first from the tea room
  • A low-ranking Chadōgu will be carried low to the body
  • A low-ranking Chadōgu will be carried farthest from the body
  • A low-ranking Chadōgu will be positioned furthest from the alcove (the most esteemed area of the tea room)
  • A low-ranking Chadōgu will be positioned furthest from the most esteemed guest and his/her vision

Regardless of its inferior rank as compared to other tea utensils, low-ranking Chadōgu are just as essential for a proper Chanoyu performance.  In my next post, we’ll take a look at some of those low-ranking — yet highly essential — Chadōgu for your next Japanese tea ceremony.

Photo “Japanese Tea” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License to the photographer Beatrice Murch and is being posted unaltered (source)