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Tea ceremony and Panyaro - The Korean Way of Tea

Tea ceremony

The tea ceremony, or chanoyu, is an aesthetic pastime unique to Japan that features the serving and drinking of macha, a powdered green tea. Though tea had been introduced into Japan from China around the eighth century, matcha did not reach the country until the end of the twelfth century. The practice of holding social gatherings to drink matcha spread among the upper class from about the fourteenth century.

Gradually one of the main purposes of these gatherings, which took place in a shoin (study), became the appreciation of paintings and crafts from China in a serene atmosphere. Under the influence of the formalities and manners that regulated the daily life of the samurai, who were then the dominant class in Japanese society, there developed certain rules and procedures that the participants in these tea parties were required to follow. This was the origin of the tea ceremony. The form of chanoyu that is practiced today was established in the second half of the sixteenth century, during the Momoyama period, by the tea master Sen no Rikyu.

Chanoyu involves more than merely enjoying a cup of tea in a stylized manner. The ceremony developed under the influence of Zen Buddhism, the aim of which is, in simple terms, to purify the soul by becoming one with nature. The true spirit of the tea ceremony has been described by such terms as calmness, rusticity, gracefulness, and the "aestheticism of austere simplicity and refined poverty." The strict canons of chanoyu etiquette, which at first glance may appear to be burdensome and meticulous, are in fact carefully calculated to achieve the highest possible economy of movement. When performed by an experienced master, they are a delight to watch. Chanoyu has played an important role in the artistic life ofthe Japanese people. As an aesthetic pursuit, the tea ceremony involves the apprecia- tion of the room in which it is held, the garden attached to the room, the utensils used in serving the tea, and the decor of the setting, such as a hanging scroll or a flower arrangement. Japanese architecture, land- scape gardening, ceramics, and flower arranging all owe a great deal to the tea ceremony. It was the spirit of chanoyu, representing the beauty of studied simplicity and harmony with nature, that molded the basis of these traditional forms of Japanese culture. Moreover, the kind of formalities observed in the tea ceremony have influenced the develop- ment of the manners of the Japanese in a fundamental way.

After the death of Sen no Rikyu in 1591, his teachings were handed down from generation to generation by his descendants and disciples. Different schools were established and have continued to be active to the present day. Among them, the Urasenke School is the most active and has the largest following. These schools differ from one another in the details of their rules, but they maintain the essence of the ceremony that the great master developed. This essence has continued to the present day unchallenged, and respect for the founder is one element that all schools possess in common. .

Panyaro - the Korean Way of Tea

In Japan, the Way of Tea has become a very rigidly codified Tea Ceremony of immense complexity. Commercial institutes instruct housewives in each minute gesture at great expense, and the spontaneity of simple human companionship that the samurai valued in the ceremony is submerged under layers of ritualism. In Korea this has not happened. Koreans feel that it is very important to remain natural while drinking tea together. At first the different steps may seem complicated, but it does not take long to master them and for the drinking of tea, alone or with others, to become a part of life. There is no end to the list of benefits attaching to the drinking of green tea. It is good for you in almost every way, unless you drink too much of it on an empty stomach, when it can be irritating.

Yet more than its health benefits, there is the dimension related to the Spirit of Tea, a quasi-religious dimension typified by the name of the tea made by Chae Won-hwa:Panya-ro, the 'Dew of Enlightening Wisdom'. In Korea, the tea revival initiated by the Venerable Hyo Dang has had a great impact. The Venerable Hyo Dang, Ch'oi Pom-sul, might be considered to be "the Ch'o Ui of the 20th century," for he wrote the first full length study of tea to be published in modern Korea and taught many people about the various aspects of tea. He was a remarkable man: active in the Independence Movement, he founded several schools and a university after 1945, as well as being the teacher of virtually all the leading figures in the modern Korean tea revival. There are now tea rooms in most cities and even quite small towns, there are innumerable tea study groups and research centres, several reviews exist consecrated entirely to the various aspects of tea culture and the Way of Tea.

There are a number of very famous tea masters, who give regular lectures. One of the most important of these is Chae Won-hwa. She studied history at Yonsei University and soon became interested in the history of Korean thought. It was while she was preparing her final graduation thesis that she first met the Venerable Hyo Dang. In the ten years that followed she learned from him every detail of the Way of Tea as well as the method of making the tea he called Panyaro (The Dew of Wisdom).

After his death in 1979 she remained as his recognized successor. In 1981 she launched a study- association devoted to the Panyaro Way of Tea with a small number of like-minded associates. In 1983, the Panyaro Institute for the Promotion of the Way of Tea (see below) was launched in a room in Seoul's Insa-dong (Tel. (82) 02 737 8976) and since then she has instructed hundreds of persons in the Way, including all the leading Korean masters of tea. Several years ago she went back to Yonsei University and did a Master's degree, writing her dissertation about Tea.

She is recognized as Great Tea Master and was honoured by being included among the six hundred exemplary and notable citizens of Seoul whose names were placed in a time capsule buried on Namsan on November 29, 1994 to mark the 600th anniversary of the founding of the Choson Dynasty with Hanyang (now Seoul) as its capital. In another four hundred years, the capsule is destined to be opened and the citizens recalled, on the 1000th anniversary of the city. We cannot know what will be the standing of tea in the world of that time, but it is good that one of modern Korea's greatest tea masters should be among those whose names will be transmitted to distant posterity.

The Panyaro Institute for the Promotion of the Way of Tea

(An English translation of the Institute's own text)

The Panyaro Institute for the Promotion of the Way of Tea was founded to perpetuate the lifelong work of the celebrated Korean Tea Master, the Venerable Hyodang, who devoted some sixty years of his life to a study of the teachings of the great Korean spiritual master Wonhyo and to the elaboration of methods of using tea in meditation.

The Venerable Hyodang contributed to the culture of tea in three major ways: First, he published the first Korean book consecrated to the Way of Tea, "The Korean Way of Tea", a work that continues to inspire readers interested in our tea culture. In that book, Master Hyodang expressed the fruit of a whole lifetime's research and experience. Second, he transmitted the particular method of making the green tea known as Panyaro. Third, he founded the first association of Koreans interested in the study of tea, the "Korean Association for the Way of Tea". That association was not destined to outlive him, but it performed a vital role in the launching of the present day association which pursues similar goals.

The Venerable Hyodang was also the first to give ordinary readers an awareness of the significance of the life of the Venerable Ch'o-ui, the early 19th century tea master, through a series of articles published in a popular newspaper. It may not be too much to say that, just as the Venerable Ch'o-ui led the revival of interest in tea in his time, so the Venerable Hyodang led the modern revival. Thanks to the fruition of a favorable karma, Chae Won-hwa was enabled to assist the Venerable Hyodang in all these undertakings.

The Venerable Hyodang departed from this world on July 10, 1979 and after a few years spent immersed in other activities, in 1981 Chae Won-hwa was able to launch a study-association devoted to the "Panyaro Way of Tea" with a small number of like-minded associates. On July 2, 1983, she founded the Panyaro Institute for the Promotion of the Way of Tea and since then she has had the privilege of meeting and instructing several hundred persons in this Way. The Venerable Hyodang always used to insist that tea was to be drunk quite naturally, in the course of daily life, and should not be made the subject of unnecessary constraints. Many people simply came and went in the course of the years, but in November 1995 Chae Won-hwa established a formal graduation ceremony for those who had completed the full course of study. Such ceremonies are now held each year.

It is her hope that each one can discover that the Way is not some remote idea, but a reality hidden very close by, in the midst of the activities of ordinary life.

Photographs of Panyaro tea being made in May 2000, near the temple called Tasol-sa, where the Venerable Hyodang lived and developed his practice of tea.

Adapted from:



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