Ceremonial Essay


Kobori Enshu (1579-1647) who served as tea master to the second and thirdTokugawa shōgun as well as one of the last renowned tea masters of olden Japan toinherit the tradition of the tea ceremony with his propensity for organization and a needfor classification led to a complex set of rules and categories which codified tea into aformal ritual and gave rise to several distinct schools of 


(Way of Tea). Enshu’snotion of “beautiful


” was characterised by refinement and richness, bringing the teaceremony back to the elegance of its origins at Higashiyama (Heian period).The Teahouse and Tea CeremonyThe underlying sentiment of the tea ceremony is the result of the Zen concept of greatness in the smallest incidents of life and with that, the simplicity and purism of thetearoom was derived from the Zen monastery. The architecture of the teahouse andarrangement of the tea garden are all carefully planned to reflect the philosophies of Zenwhile traditional arrangement of a formal tea garden with its tea house and other furnishings follow certain prescribed rules for proper conduct of a tea ceremony.There are a number of ways of conducting the tea ceremony, depending on theseason of the year and the occasions as well as according to the perception of theceremony by different schools of 


. The formal tea ceremony or 


is anentertainment that the host has to prepare with great care, paying attention to manydetails of preparation such as the selection of the


or hanging scroll to be placedin the


as well as the floral arrangement (


) to be used, again withattention to season as well as the use of incense and the food to be prepared.The ceremony consisting of a light repast called ‘


’, several dishes preparedcarefully and in fixed order served together with


, followed by a thick pasty teaknown as


which is made of young leaves from a shrub 20 – 70 years old, and afoaming tea brew,


, using leaves from a shrub of 3 – 15 years old, make up


. Regular formal ceremonies last about four hours whilst informal


requires only one hour as only powdered tea is served. Hours considered proper for holding a tea ceremony are ‘


’, held at 5am during summer where participants canenjoy the morning glory and other similar flowers decorating the


. ‘


’,held at 7am in winter where participants enjoy the beauty of snow freshly fallen duringthe night. Other hours also include, ‘


’, held after breakfast at 8am, ‘


’, held atnoon, ‘


’, held at 6pm and ‘


’, which is conducted at any other time than the preceding times.Invitations to a formal


are typically sent out, either in writing or in persona week in advance or earlier, depending and usually to the prescribed number of fiveguests. The duty of the guests are to reply promptly in writing or other means andaccording to polite etiquette. Those accepting of the invitation will call on the host theday before the party to express thanks. Just before the time set for the


the hostsweeps the garden and path leading to the teahouse and also sprinkling it with water as3

The Comparison of Jan Van Eyck’s and Aztecs wedding ceremonies

Whereas the Mendoza Cortex’s depiction of a wedding ceremony and Jan Van Eyck’s The Arnofilni Portrait (otherwise known as The Wedding Portrait) are the products of two radically different cultural contexts, a certain symmetry to the paintings can be said to exist in the basic form of the works, particularly the positioning of its main figures of the wedding couple. Such similarities are most likely the product of historical chance, insofar as Van Eyck’s work was painted in 1434, while the date of the Codex’s depiction is approximately 1553. It would be unlikely that the Aztecs who created the work at the request of Spanish authorities would have seen Van Eyck’s painting, and furthermore, if they had in fact seen it, it is unlikely to have influenced their portrayal, since the very intent of the Codex was to present an authentic account of Aztec life through Aztec aesthetics. Nonetheless, the existence of these parallels between works suggests that there are certain universal ideas concerning marriage and love that transcend cultural distinctions, and this is reflected in both Van Eyck and the Aztec portrayals. Furthermore, the attention to detail of both paintings suggests an underlying aesthetic commitment to realism.

In terms of content, both works can be said to provide an attempt to describe in a radically realistic manner a wedding ceremony of respective cultures. Accordingly, despite the first glance simplicity of the forms presented, there is a tremendous attention to detail in both works. As Harbison suggests, Van Eyck “had an eye for the kind of significant detail that can reveal something of the complexity of the lives these people led.” (47) Van Eyck tries to convey a sense of the existence of his subjects, from the apparently pregnant woman, to the accurate description of the room with mirrors and dog, wherein the painting is set, capturing that which constitutes a life of people in this time period. Van Eyck is, in this regard, dedicated to a form of realism.

Whereas the Codex Mendoza’s style appears to be more primitive, it also shares a commitment to a form of radical realism, in which the emphasis is on how those portrayed in the picture live their lives. Accordingly, the unknown artist takes care to show the exact placement of individuals within the wedding ceremony context, from the rug on which they kneel to the tying of their tunics together as a sign of traditional Aztec love. “The vivid pictorial…account of early sixteenth-century Aztec life” (Berdan & Anawalt, xi) thus strives for completeness in its conception of this important ritual of Aztec culture.

Certainly, the crucial difference in composition is the glyphic forms of the Aztec art, compared to Van Eyck’s immaculate usage of perspective. The Dutch artist clearly places perspective as crucial to his piece, creating the depth of the room in which the married couple stands. The glyphic portrayal of the Aztecs, in contrast, reflects the basic style of Aztec art, one that was unfamiliar or unconcerned with the perception of depth and perspective.

However, the most striking similarity is perhaps in the manner in which the married figures are bound together in both works: holding hands in Van Eyck, and the aforementioned tied tunics of the Aztecs. This suggests the shared metaphors and common symbolism of marriage, irrespective of culture. Marriage designates a fundamental bond of human beings, and both works are thus deeply humanist understandings of this ceremony

Accordingly, despite the immediate stylistic differences between the two pieces, they share an affinity in their commitment to realism and detail on the one hand, and the universal symbolism of love and marriage on the other. Despite being culturally specific works, both paintings demonstrate art’s capability to present universal images, understandable by all.

Tips to consider

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