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Time in the Tea Ceremony - Decreux

Eric Decreux (Universite Orleans) Time in the Tea Ceremony

Eric Decreux (Universite Orleans)

Time in the Tea Ceremony


This talk has the purpose to present some aspects of the interaction of the conception of time and the spatial organization of the Japanese tea ceremony room.  This spatial organization appears indeed to be mostly important in this practice and contributes to the creation of an atmosphere which may be relevant for the understanding of some aspects of the apperception of time, as one of the well known watchwords of this practice “ichiko-ichie”, “one time, one meeting”, may suggest it.

The tea ceremony appears to be significant for the interaction of the Japanese sensibility with a large range of traditional Japanese activities from the 16th century onwards. Since this time, the fixed rules of this practice exclude among others the use of any tools of objective measure like clocks. Anyway, time is present through a net of allusions from the displayed objects and emphasized by the conversation.

In this talk, we will show how the tea ceremony can appear as an artistic representation, and even as  the construction of a symbolic milieu, in which time should be a non-independent parameter. We will in particular focus on both the interaction between spatial rhythm and the peoples'  behaviour and the narrative dimension of the evocation of time. We also will make a link between these remarks and some other Japanese traditions: the renga chained poetry, which is often linked with the tea ceremony by the major schools of this practice, but also other performance arts. Eventually, the character of time in this artificially constructed place may be discussed, and a link with some writings of Japanese philosophers of the Meiji era like Kuki Shuzo may be done.