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On Saturday, I took advantage of the one special day of superb weather we’ve had in the City and went downtown to spend the day at the museums. While wandering through the Sackler gallery, I came across an interesting exhibition: Chigusa and the Art of Tea.

I had never heard of Chigusa and was at first, quite confused as to what it indicated. Was it a name for a particular ceremony? An idea? Apparently, it is the name of the jar itself, Chinese in origin from the mid-13th–mid-14th century. From the exhibition’s website: “Japanese collectors have long engaged with objects through the practice of formalized tea presentation called chanoyu. Within the compact and focused setting of the tearoom, they singled out exceptional works through use, scrutiny, and discussion. They gave added distinction to stellar tea-leaf storage jars—utensils of imposing scale and presence—by awarding them personal names and adorning them with precious textiles.”

This ritual of naming and presentation led some participants in the various tea ceremonies to record their experiences in diaries, an excerpt of which is shown above. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take photos in the exhibition so any that you see here are taken from this slideshow. Chigusa itself is enormous; I cannot imagine its weight or whether or not you would have ladled tea straight from the jar into other pouring instruments or whether you would have poured it straight from Chigusa. The exhibition also showed several other instruments used for grinding the tea into powder and how they would dress the pot and knot it in decorative silk cords for display.

Chigusa with new mouth cover, secured with an ornamental knot

All in all, I think it’s a beautiful way to honor the tea ceremony.  I also love the elaborate wood nesting boxes that stored it, shown below.

Bottle with decoration of clouds and phoenixes

I highly recommend seeing this exhibition if you’re in town and in general, the Sackler and Freer Asian art galleries are not to be missed.

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