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Our group does public demonstrations at Shofuso once a month from April to October, when the house is open to the public. We will post the dates of upcoming demonstrations on our home page, and you can also get more information at www.shofuso.com. Space at the public demonstrations is limited, so we recommend that you reserve a seat in advance. (Guests at these public demonstrations typically sit on the floor; if you need to sit on a chair because of physical considerations, please let the staff know beforehand.)
If you have a group that’s interested in a private demonstration, you can arrange for one at Shofuso, or one of our demonstrators can come to you. Fees and availability depend on the date, location, and the number of people involved.
Demonstrations typically involve a brief introduction to chado, the demonstration itself, and time for questions and answers at the end, all of which takes about an hour. Although any number of people can observe a demonstration, the utensils are small and the movements are subtle, so a very large group may find it hard to catch all the details.
If you’re interested in a demonstration at Shofuso, please contact their office directly at (215) 878-5097 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re interested in an on-site demonstration, e-mail us at email@example.com.
Our teachers offer lessons in a variety of venues. Several of our member teachers give private lessons in their homes on different days and times, and we have teachers in New Jersey and in the western suburbs of Philadelphia in addition to the city itself. If you are interested in private lessons, please contact us and we will put you in touch with a teacher based on your geographical location and availability.
We also offer weekly lessons in chado through Shofuso, the Japanese House in Fairmount Park. Lessons are held on Saturday mornings and afternoons; the time varies depending on the type of class you are taking.
If you have never studied tea ceremony before, we start beginners on the first Saturday of every month, and we ask that you sign up for four classes in advance. Beginners are given hands-on instruction in the techniques of chado as well as instruction in the history and philosophy of the art. While students are not required to come to class every week, if you cannot come to class at least twice a month you may find it difficult to retain the information and physical skills you need to progress.
Please be aware that tea ceremony is practiced sitting on the floor, and students need to be able to maintain a kneeling position (seiza) for at least a short period of time. If you have physical restrictions that would prevent you from doing so, please consult with one of our teachers before signing up for a class.
For people with prior experience with chado, we offer ongoing advanced lessons. For information on these or more on the beginner’s classes, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To register for a class at Shofuso, visit the tea ceremony page at www.shofuso.com.
There are a number of reasons why people study tea. If you talk to different tea students, it might seem like everyone comes to chado for different reasons, and with different goals in mind.
Practicing chado offers a number of benefits: It can be used as a meditative technique that helps to calm the mind and body, but also offers a way to help increase your focus and concentration. It also offers a way to connect to a culture that is completely different from daily life in the States. In Japan, tea is considered one of the traditional arts, much like karate, Noh theater, and flower arranging (ikebana). Through learning chado, one also learns about the history, art, folklore, and traditions of Japan, as well as the nuances of Japanese manners.
Some people enjoy the aesthetics of tea. The artistry involved in the ceramics alone is its own field of study, one that attracts people from all over the world. The designs of everything from the bowl to the tea scoop to the kettle in which the water is boiled have been refined for generations, all with the goal of being functional as well as visually pleasing.
Some people come to chado from the study of Zen. Tea and Zen Buddhism have intertwined for centuries, and even today high-ranking tea masters in Japan study Zen as a matter of course. Although chado itself is not a religious practice, it still offers Zen students a way to practice focusing their minds.
And, of course, some people just enjoy the process of getting together and sharing a bowl of tea -- as our students can testify, it's addictive!
Lessons are taught in traditional Japanese style, which usually means a group. The students begin by asking the teacher for a lesson, and then each student makes tea under the teacher’s supervision, with other students acting as guests. There are literally dozens of different variations on tea ceremony, or temae in Japanese; students start by learning basic movements and gradually build up to doing a complete temae. From there, the temae get progressively more complicated, each level building on the one before.
Learning tea is an experiential process. Students are encouraged to learn by doing and by observing rather than by taking notes or memorizing a sequence from a book. Details are important, and there’s a lot of emphasis on moving in the right way and placing things in the right position. The goal is to train your body to move in a way that’s purposeful and, ultimately, beautiful.
That depends on what you want to do. The simplest temae in the Urasenke system takes six months to a year to master, depending on the student.
If you want to continue your study, in the Urasenke system there are many other levels of tea, each one a bit more complex than the last. In practice, it takes at least five years to learn enough to host a full tea gathering, and beyond that you could study indefinitely. Like most schools of chado, Urasenke has a tiered system in which students who reach a certain point in their studies receive licenses to study at a higher level. Once students have completed these levels, they may receive their chamei (tea name), which means that they now have permission to become teachers themselves. In practice, this usually takes ten to fifteen years.
But with chado, it's the practice that counts, not the destination. There's a popular tea story that illustrates this point beautifully:
A disciple of Sen Rikyu, the founder of what became modern chado, once asked, "What are the most important things that must be kept in mind at a tea gathering?"
He answered, "Make a delicious bowl of tea; lay the charcoal so that it heats the water; arrange the flowers as they are in the field; in summer suggest coolness, in winter, warmth; do everything ahead of time; prepare for rain; and give those with whom you find yourself every consideration."
The disciple, who had hoped to hear some great secret, said, "That much I already know . . ."
Rikyu answered, "Then if you can host a tea gathering without deviating from any of the rules I have just stated, I will become your disciple."
With a little bit of digging, it's not too hard to find books that will describe the procedure for doing a temae, and some of them go into great detail. Why bother taking lessons from a teacher when it's all written down?
Genpaku Sotan, the grandson of Rikyu and himself a tea master, probably put it best when he wrote:
That which is chado / Is transmitted through the mind / Through the eyes /Through the ears / With not a single written word
The true spirit of chado has as much to do with your heart and mind as it does with the procedure. In the beginning, the focus is on memorizing the sequence, but once the student learns what to do, the emphasis shifts to what is going on in his or her mind. Learning how to center yourself, how to pay attention to your own movements and the guests at the same time, how to distinguish the smallest details that will either make or break your gathering -- all of that comes with time, practice, and the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher.
There are practical reasons, too. A book might tell you where to put a tea container, but it can't correct you if your positioning is slightly off; it can't tell you when your back isn't straight enough, or when you've added too much water to the tea. All of that, and a thousand other unpublished details, requires an experienced teacher.
What about people who don't live near a tea school? It's a difficult problem. But if you or someone you know is truly interested, we would encourage you to contact the nearest tea school (see our links page for a list). Even if it's too far for you to travel, they may know a teacher who lives close enough for you to study with, or be able to give you other advice. You can also try checking with a nearby Japanese cultural center, if one exists.