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The Aesthetics of the Chinese Tea Ceremony

The Three Classical Aesthetic Disciplines

The aesthetics of Chinese Tea Ceremony are deeply rooted in the Chinese Traditional Culture. There are many disciplines of Chinese classical aesthetics-the Confucians admire "harmony"; the Buddhists admire "emptiness" and the Taoists admire smartness", all nourishing the Chinese Tea Ceremony like the spring rain, "coming quietly in the evening with the wind, nourshing everything silently".

The Aesthetic Principle of "Harmonious” in Confucianism

The top aesthetic requirement of Confucianism can be summarized as "harmony". This concept existed even before the birth of Confucius. Ideologist Shi Bo in the Late Western-Zhou Dynasty (about 806B.C. ~ 771B.C.), had always said that "harmony actually is the coexistance and balance of different things together. If things are the same, it would make up a boring world." Later Confucius developed it into the aesthetic thought of "harmony".

About the aesthetics on human personality, Confucius proposed that it would be regarded rough if a person has a lack of outside decoration, but if the outside decoration is more than his virtue within, he would be superficial. Keeping a balance between the two is the basic requirement for a real gentleman".

On human emotions, Confucius thought that "it is called 'middle' when there is no expression of being happy, angry, sad or delightful; it is called harmony if they are expressed properly. 'Middle' is the base of everything, while harmony is the path to it. If 'Middle' and harmony are in the right position, everything would grow well."

Confucius also broadened the aesthetic criteria of "harmony". For instance, on the appreciation of music and poems, he proposed a proper control of emotion like Guan Ju, "not too much pleasure or too much sadness."

About the content of poems, he pointed out that the three hundred poems are "Considered no extremes in one word", which indicates that the contents of should be appropriate. These are all measured by the standards of "middle" thoughts in Confucian. Afterwards, "harmony" was developed as a vital criteria to interpret and common on arts.

In tea activities,especially in tea art performances, the relationship between various oppsite elements like Yin and Yang, opening and closing being heavy and being light, coming and going, is important.To balance the relationship through these elements is a beginning to study the "harmony" implication in Confucianism.

The Aesthetic Principle of "Emptiness" in Buddhism

Buddhism has no deliberate construction of its acethetic system, nor did it directly talk about aesthetic issues, but unconsciously it reveals its aesthetic qualities when talking about philosophical issues. The views like "A beautiful scenary is nothing but emptiness of the mind, while emptiness of the mind is nothing but a beautiful scenary. In philosophy, there is no difference between the two things." The heart contains in the whole world." Things exist only after being known", All these doctrines engendered a subjective aesthetics attitude of "beauty is produced by the heart".

Firstly "A beautiful scenery is actually the emptiness of the mind" implies a sort of opposite but unific relationship. Existence is not contradictory of emptiness. They are comparatively converse but unified, which, in a long term, can be transfered! to each other. Thus the subjectivism of aesthetics is generated. This philosophy enables people to embrace a wider society and more existences in the world, which could transfer to a joyful spiritual fun.

Buddhism admires "emptiness", which requires us to understand and balance the relationship between "emptiness" and "solidness". Mr Zhou Ji required us to "pursue emptiness first and solidness gradually afterwards" when writing poems. Su Dongpo commented on poems that "tranquility enables you to notice the movements of others, and emptiness enables you to embrace everything".

"Emptiness" means a pure heart and an objective perspective to view everything that consolidates the ability to observe things deeper.

Buddhist aesthetics requires us to have the ability to reproduce a splendour after the heart obtains emptiness through the phenomenon. This is the "vacuum that is the basic but take it finely". Guo Liufang's Returning to Changsha in a Boat perfectly explains this. The poem goes as follows:

My family is at the East of the West-Lake, who lives in East Lake, lean the sunset through the res pearls curtain.

Recently I watched my home from the boat, suddenly noticed that my home is in a pretty picture.

The Aesthetic Principle of "Intelligence" in Taoism

The Taoist aesthetics are the origins of Chinese Classical Aesthetics, and also the origin of the Chinese Tea Ceremony. The two Masters of Taoism are Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi, whose aesthetic thoughts formed the complete Taoist aesthetic theory system.

First, Taoism thinks that the root of beauty is Tao.

Lao Zi said, "As a matter, Tao is abstract. Within the matter, there are images, there are objects; within the depth and complex, there are spirit; the spirit is true, and there is trust." Lao Zi thought that Tao constitutes the body of the world, is the driving force to generate the universe, the law of the running of all things, and the principles of humanity. Tao contains everything including beauty. Zhuang Zi developed Lao Zi's ideas, and put forward that "the world possesses great beauty yet boats nothing about it; nature has a great law but never talk about it; all things have their own principle but never show it. Saints reveal the original beauty of heaven and earth and follow the rations of all things. The beauty Tao is the beauty of nature. But what is the beauty of nature? Since the nature of Tao is inaction and simple, Zhuang Zi said "simplicity is the greatest beauty of all." To create real beauty, we should "follow the nature and adore the truth, and not limited by the form."

Second, Taoism believes that the beauty of life is natural.

The Virtue Classic says "Human follow the earth; the earth follows the heaven; the heaven follows the Tao and Tao follows the Nature". The Personality of Nature is comfortable faction and simple. Like "the sky is high; the earth is thick; the sun and are bright. Then what else do we need to do to fix them?" So the beauty of life should be inaction mind, which are the fundamental principles of our behavior." Taoist aesthetics is against any damage to the natural and simple nature since our action would only ruin things and bring imbalance to nature.

Third, the highest state of beauty is "smartness".

The great beauty of "Tao" infiltrates into all things. But "great sound is often unheard; the big image is often invisible", "the world has great beauty without speaking." Well, what is the highest form of the aesthetic beauty pursuit by Taoists? How was it expressed? Lao Zi created an aesthetic concept called "smartness". Unknown is the beginning of the world; naming is the mother of all things. So I am trying to watch the smartness of everything through regular unknown; to watch the boundary through regular existence. Both of them share the same name "mysterious", which is the door for all smartness." In this, Lao Zi put the "smart" and boundary together. He believed that both "smart" and "boundary" are the attributes of Tao. "Smart" is the infinite aspect of Tao, and "boundary" embodies the limitations side of "Tao". Because the fundamental property of "Tao" is nature, so is "smartness" Lao Zi denied the "beauty" but adored "smartness". He said "Ancient Taoist, the delicate and smart, too deep to know."

The "smartness" is bound to go beyond the tangible images and beyond words. Because the character of "smartness" is to reveal the undefined and unlimited quality of Tao. This became usually "the smartness out of image," "too smart to tell." After the Han Dynasty,smartness" became the aesthetic words and reviews, and was widely used. It is used in literature, used by people, used in philosophy and used in aesthetics. As Yan Yu said "It just like the sound from heaven, the color of image, the moon in the water and the image in the mirror, the meanings are far beyond words".