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Ceremonial Teahouse: Sunkaraku (Evanescent Joys)
Ceremonial Teahouse: Sunkaraku (Evanescent Joys), c. 1917
Designed by Ōgi Rodō, Japanese
Wood, bamboo, stone, metal, rush, plaster, paper, ceramic, fabric, and mulberry bast cord
Purchased with Museum Funds, 1928
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About This Teahouse

Imagine that you are a guest at this Japanese teahouse set in a tranquil garden. Before the tea ceremony begins, you wait in the building on the right to quietly prepare for the ritual. After a signal from the host, you walk slowly along the stone path to a mossy stone basin and wash your face and hands. Before entering the teahouse, you must remove your shoes and bow, then crawl through a small door. Its low height is meant to remind you and the other guests to enter the tearoom and the ceremony with humility and respect. Once inside, you may notice that there are no chairs. Instead, there are three tatami (mats made of rice-plant straw) on the floor. The entire teahouse is made from natural materials such as cedar and bamboo, creating a sense of harmony with nature. A branch of Japanese evergreen extends along the half wall inside the house as a reminder of what grew there before.

The Japanese tea ceremony engages all five senses: you can smell the woodsy scent of the surrounding garden, hear the wind in the trees outside, feel the teabowl and chakin (napkin) in your hands, see a beautiful painting or ceramic pot in the tokonoma (alcove), and taste the hot green tea and sweets. During this detailed and elegant ritual, each movement is performed with careful attention to four spiritual qualities: respect (kei), harmony (wa), purity (sei), and tranquility (jaku). With these in mind, the tea ceremony becomes a contemplative, calming experience.

This object is included in Learning to Look: 20 Works of Art Across Time and Cultures, a teaching kit developed by the Division of Education and made possible by the Comcast Foundation, The Delphi Project Foundation, and Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company. Additional information and activities are included in Learning from Asian Art: Japan.


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