A Timeline of Tea: A Thousand Years of Tradition

In 710, the Nara period began in Japan, and the capital was transferred to Nara. During this time, tea cultivation started at certain temples across Japan, primarily for the consumption of priests and noblemen as a medicinal beverage.

In 729, Emperor Shoumu organized a religious ceremony called Incha, where tea was served to participating monks during the religious service.

The first known work on tea, called Cha Ching, was written in 760 by a Chinese Buddhist priest named Lu Wu. His book detailed the proper methods of making tea, including the correct use of tea vessels and the temperature of hot water. It is believed that the influence of this classic text played a role in the development of the tea ceremony in Japan.

In 794, the Heian period began in Japan, and the capital was transferred to Kyoto.

In 1053, the Chinese calligrapher Cai Xiang, also known as Tsan Hsiang, wrote a book called Cha Lu. In this book, he discussed the production of powdered green tea, which later became incorporated into the Japanese tea ceremony.

In 1107, the Chinese emperor Hui Tsung wrote a book called Ta Kuan Cha Lun, or A General View of Tea, which mentioned the tea whisk (Chasen) for the first time. He referred to a bamboo whisk used to froth powdered green tea after hot water was poured over it.

In 1191, Myoan Eisai brought tea seeds back from China. Eisai, who went to China to study Buddhism, planted these seeds in the Hizen district of northern Kyushu.

In 1206, Myoe planted tea seeds received from Myoan Eisai in Toganoo, Kyoto. Myoe was the founder of Kouzanji (Toganoo-san Kouzanji) temple in Kyoto and left behind numerous national treasures and important cultural properties.

In 1211, Eisai wrote a book called Kissa Youjouki, which translates to “Tea Drinking is Good for Our Health.” This book covered various aspects of tea cultivation and consumption. After being presented to a Shogun (Samurai General), the popularity of tea spread, and it became widely consumed.

In 1324, Emperor Go-daigo hosted a tea gathering for noblemen and Shoguns at his palace.

In 1336, tea gatherings were forbidden by Ashikaga Takauji, the founder of the Ashikaga shogunate, through the enactment of a new law called Kenmu Shikimoku. Takauji, a general of the Kamakura shogunate and the founder of the Ashikaga dynasty, banned tea gatherings due to concerns over rebellious Samurai clans using these gatherings to discuss politics.

In 1343, tea gatherings known as Tocha regained popularity after the ban on tea gatherings was lifted.

In 1416, the retainers of Prince Fushimi organized a tea gathering.

During the Japanese civil war (Onin no Ran) in 1467, Daitokuji temple was burned down. The temple grounds housed various smaller temples, some of which had special Chashitsu or tea rooms for hosting tea gatherings.

In 1469, Sumitane Furuichi held a Rinkan tea ceremony, which took place in a forested setting. Furuichi, who studied the art of beauty, received secret teachings from Murato Shuko.

In 1476, a significant book called Kundaikan Socho-ki was written by Noami. This book featured descriptions, drawings, and ink paintings of tea utensils. Noami served as an adviser to the Ashikaga Shogunate, collecting Chinese paintings and other art objects for the Shogunate. He was also a renowned Japanese painter, a renga poet, and an expert in the ways of the Japanese tea ceremony.

In 1502, Murata Shuko, one of the co-founders of the Japanese tea ceremony known as “the way of tea,” passed away.

In 1533, Matsuya Hisamasa began keeping a record called the “Record of Tea Gatherings.” Hisamasa frequently visited Kyoto, Sakai, and other cities to attend tea ceremonies for inspection.

In 1548, Tsuda Sotatsu started writing a diary of tea gatherings known as the Tennōjiya kaiki. This record was compiled by three generations of the Tennōjiya mercantile house. Hisamasa was one of the three merchant-class tea masters in Sakai entrusted with organizing chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony) for Oda Nobunaga, who favored their prosperous business house.

Takeno Joo, master of the Japanese tea ceremony and Sen Rikyu’s teacher, passed away in 1555.

In 1585, Toyotomi Hideyoshi was promoted to the position of chief advisor to Emperor Ōgimachi, the penultimate emperor of the Muromachi period. Hideyoshi hosted a tea ceremony gathering at a small palace within the Imperial Palace.

Also in 1585, Sen Rikyu received the title “Koji,” a Buddhist lay name, from Emperor Ōgimachi.

In 1586, Toyotomi Hideyoshi performed a tea ceremony at the Imperial Palace using his portable gold tea pavilion.

In 1587, Toyotomi Hideyoshi completed building his grand palace, the Jurakadai, in Kyoto. The following year, the Great Tea Ceremony of Kitano was held, with Sen Rikyu Koji, Tsuda Sogyu, and Tsuda Sokyu as Sado (supervisors).

Also in 1588, Yamanoue Soji began writing The Record of Yamanoue Soji, which he completed in 1590.

In 1591, Sen no Rikyu Koji was forced to commit suicide by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and his last words were written in a poem: “Welcome to thee, O sword of eternity! Through Buddha And through Daruma alike Thou hast cleft thy way.”

In 1612, Koho-an was constructed in the Daitokuji Temple by Kobori Enshu. It is an independent tea hut in the shoin style, built during Enshu’s later, more matured age.

Jo-an was constructed in the Kenninji temple by Oda Uraku in 1618.

The Katsura Imperial villa, which consists of a Shoin villa, a tea hut, and a beautiful landscape garden, was completed in 1625.

Construction of the Shugaku-in Imperial villa began in 1659.

In 1665, Katagiri Sekishu became the teacher of Tea to the Tokugawas.

Yamada Sohen wrote Sado Benmo Sho in 1680, and Kusumi Soan wrote Chawa Shigetsu Shu in 1700.

Matsudaira Fumai recorded all the famed tea ceremony utensils in existence in his book Kokon Meibutsu Ruiju, which was published in 1787 in eighteen volumes. In Seto-toki Ransho, published in 1811, Fumai wrote about the origins of Seto-ware.

In 1898, Tanaka Sensho founded the Dai Nihon Chado Gakkai, and in 1906, he published the book Chazen Ichimi.

The Book Of Tea, written by Okakura Kakuzo, was published in New York in 1906.

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