Addressed to a Western audience, it was originally written in English and is one of the great English tea classics. Okakura had been taught at a young age to speak English and was proficient at communicating his thoughts to the Western mind. In his book, he discusses such topics as Zen and Taoism, but also the secular aspects of tea and Japanese life. The book emphasizes how Teaism taught the Japanese many things, the most important of which were simplicity and humility:
In the book, Kakuzō states that Teaism, in itself, is one of the profound universal remedies in which conflicting parties might find reconciliation. He ends the book with a chapter on Tea Masters and spends some time talking about Sen no Rikyū and his contribution to the Japanese tea ceremony.
Okakura's presentation of "The Schools of Tea" is a tacit admission that more than technical expertise is needed to prepare and enjoy tea in the correct manner. The Japanese needed to learn how to prepare tea from the Chinese. The evolution of boiled to whipped to steeped tea is a growth in technical knowledge. Tea-masters benefit from the hundreds of years of knowledge that has been passed down to them. Western audiences can replicate the exact technique of preparing tea like the Japanese but Okakura worries that they lack the philosophical underpinnings of the ceremony. The short history of tea drinking and the reframing of the discussions of tea are Okakura's attempt to teach western audiences that tea is more than just a drink. The actual tea is often the least important part of the tea ceremony. Okakura's book is his attempt to teach the world that the technique of preparing tea means nothing without the philosophy of Teaism.
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