UC Berkeley History of Art Department

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Embodying the Ceramic Vessel in Sixteenth-Century Japanese Tea Culture

Andrew Watsky, Princeton University


Chanoyu has always entailed multiple overlapping activities, including the preparation and consumption of tea, the collecting and use of a repertoire of requisite objects, and the understanding and articulation of the relative quality of those objects. This paper focuses on sixteenth-century chanoyu, for which there are both extant objects and a rich trove of textual evidence, and especially on ōtsubo, “large jars,” then the most highly valued of all chanoyu objects. We will consider how sixteenth-century tea men assessed and amplified the significances of treasured ōtsubo, through the formulation of aesthetic criteria, the bestowal of proper names, and an inclination for anthropomorphic embrace.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Japanese Studies.