Friday, January 13, 2012

The essentials: 3. Arrange the flowers as if they were in the fields

The ancient tea master, Rikyu said “Arrange the flowers as if they were in the fields”.  This is one of the seven essentials of The Way of Tea, which I introduced on the previous entry.

In a tea ceremony, flowers are displayed at the tokonoma alcove in the tea room.  They are usually seasonal flowers and simply arranged, never gaudy.  Even if there are many flowers in the field, we never bring them all into the tea room, not even if it is said to arrange the flowers as if they were in the fields.  The arrangement is usually composed of a few flowers which are carefully selected by the host to match the theme of the ceremony.

Some people interpret Rikyu’s statement as to “See the essences and express simply”.  I understand it when you think of the basics of the tea flower arrangement.  But, the interpretation, “See the essences and express simply” has a big difference literally from “Arrange the flowers as if they were in the fields” for me.  I might need more training to understand better.

At the moment, I would simply interpret it as “Making things natural or being natural is important”.  Natural is the best.  I think it can be applied to the utensils, tea room and your behavior.  That could be why natural materials with minimum processing and without unnecessary decorations are preferred for the utensils and tea room.  And also, your behavior and movement in a ceremony should be natural.  Don’t put on airs.


  1. I have been wondering, where do you get flowers for chabana? My teacher tells us to take walks and find them, but in the city that means only in public places like the side of the road. It seems too artificial to buy flowers from the flower stores, but it is sometimes hard to find flowers outside that don't belong to someone's garden. And we are not supposed to use flowers that are already in the tea houses's garden, because that would be repeating flowers. Maybe it was all easier centuries ago when not so many people lived in cities, and cities themselves were smaller!

    1. My master tells the same thing. Walk and find the flower in the field. I also have a difficulty finding flowers. I didn’t know the rule that you can’t use flowers in the garden, and I had different understanding about the tea garden. I have read that you don’t plant blooming trees or flowers in the tea garden. The tea garden should consist of green plants only. In either case, you don’t see the same flower twice, so they mean the same basically, I guess. Haha.
      Anyway, I’m not so strict about the rules since I don’t have a tea room and tea garden at my house. I’m just tiring to plant some flowers in my garden little by little. I sometimes buy seedlings, and sometimes my master gives me a seedling. I’ve just planted hydrangea (^^)
      I have never been one but there are flower shops that deal flowers for tea.