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Zen in Art (Japan)

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Zen Buddhism reached Japan in the 7 th century but was not firmly established until the 12 th century. Zen permeated the aesthetic sensibilities of every day life in Japan, in particular the simple act of drinking tea. Towards the end of the 12 th century, powdered green tea was brought back to Japan from China by returning Zen Buddhist monks, who drank tea to stay awake during long hours of meditation. The spirit and etiquette of serving tea was transformed into the art of the 'tea ceremony' ( cha-no-yu , hot water for tea) first performed by Zen monks for the military class in the 15 th century.

In the 16 th century, the tea masters, whose practice was informed by Zen, became arbiters of aesthetic taste. They began to use local rustic wares, such as Shigaraki ware, selected for its natural beauty. The rough and dynamic Shigaraki jar, originally made to store grain, was adopted as a container for tealeaves. The aesthetic taste and spiritual perception of beauty of the tea masters has extended to the familiar and commonplace, including objects of humble origin. The Japanese love of nature includes the appreciation for natural textures and rough accidental effects. A flaw or apparent imperfection is appreciated as Wabi or the beauty of poverty.

Source

www.ngv.vic.gov.au