Friday, January 6, 2012

The essentials: 2. Place the charcoal appropriately to boil the water

An ancient tea master, Rikyu said “place the charcoal appropriately to boil the water”.  This is one of the seven essentials of The Way of Tea, which I introduced on the previous entry.  People have different interpretations for the essentials. 

In tea ceremonies, the host heats up the kettle ussing charcoals.  He uses different types of charcoals and each of them has specific shape and size.  There are proper procedures and manners for placing them in the hearth or brazier.  There are even certain positions for each charcoal in the hearth which can create stable heat during the ceremony. 

Does the said statement refer to preparing the heat fine only or is there more meaning to it?

Before guests come, you have to prepare a lot of things to boil the water.  If you don’t place the charcoal correctly, you won’t get enough heat to boil the water, or they will burn too fast and you won’t have enough heat left when you prepare the tea.  To serve good bowls of tea, proper placement the charcoals is very important.  It will affect the success of the ceremony.  I think that “placement the charcoals” refer to the preparations in general. 

My interpretation of Rikyu’s “Place the charcoal appropriately to boil the water” is that
preparations of things are very important.

This interpretation may vary in the future as I experience and understand The Way of Tea more.


  1. Interesting - I don't know much about Japanese tea, but the Way of the tea seems to be a correct way to pursue many kinds of practice.

    Heat is energy. Perhaps the preparation of the coals is about the decisions one takes to create the appropriate amount and type of energy?

    1. Hi, Ayesha-san,
      The way of tea is profound. There are many things to learn. I think it needs lifetime learning. That may be why it attracts people. If I learn more about charcoals, I’ll introduce it on this blog^^