Did you know that we frequently change the works on view in our collection galleries? The Japanese tearoom is currently featuring exquisite utensils designed for making and serving koicha, or thick tea.
Chado (the Way of Tea), sometimes called tea ceremony, has been central to Japanese culture and art since the 16th century. The utensils now on view in the tearoom are those used for making and serving koicha, or thick tea, a velvety beverage made from whisking powdered green tea with a small amount of hot water. Koicha is served during a formal gathering, which can also include an elaborate multicourse meal, sake, sweets, and thin tea (usucha).
As the first utensil carried into the tearoom, the delightful Freshwater Jar with Lion, Peony, and Orchid Design, from approx. 1640–1660, would set the tone for the gathering. The Seto ware tea container, specifically designed to hold powdered green tea for thick tea, would then be brought in, sheathed in a custom-made brocaded silk pouch.
Guests would often drink from the same bowl, passed from person to person. The Raku ware tea bowl included in this rotation has the red glaze and black mottling associated with Raku Ryonyu (1756–1834). Raku ware has a reputation as one of the best types of tea bowls, due to its rustic appearance, soft feel, and insulating properties.
In the tokonoma, or decorative alcove, you’ll see an intricately carved Incense Container with Scrolls from China (approx. 1500–1644) with multiple layers of red, yellow, and black lacquer. As with the other objects in the tearoom, the incense container serves both as a functional utensil and an object to be admired.
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Images: Incense container with scrolls, approx. 1500–1644. Probably China. Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Carved red lacquer. Asian Art Museum, Gift of Harry and Edith Marks, 1989.40.5.a-.b. Photograph © Asian Art Museum. Tea bowl, approx. 1800–1950, attributed to Raku Ryonyu (Raku IX) (Japanese, 1756–1834). Earthenware with glaze. Asian Art Museum, The Avery Brundage Collection, B69P23. Photograph © Asian Art Museum.