The Tea-societiesFebruary 28, 2022
The following certificate translated by the interpreter of the German Consulate shows how highly ancient pots, even of native origin, are esteemed in Japan up to the present:
Baron Alexander von Siebold communicates the following:
The value which the Japanese attach to vessels of this kind rests upon the use which is made of them by the mysterious tea societies called Cha-no-yu. Respecting the origin of these societies, which still are almost entirely unknown to Europeans, different legends exist. They flourished, however, principally during the reign of the emperor Taikosama, who, in the year 1588, furnished the society of Cha-no-yu at Kitano near Myako with new laws.
In consequence of the religious and civil wars, the whole of the people had deteriorated and become ungovernable, having lost all taste for art and knowledge, and holding only rude force in any esteem; brute strength ruling in the place of the laws. The observant Taikosama perceived that, in order to tame these rough natures, he must accustom them to the arts of peace, and thus secure prosperity to the country, and safety for himself and his successors. With this view he recalled the Cha-no-yu society anew into life, and assembled its masters and those acquainted with its customs around him.
The object of the Cha-no-yu is to draw man away from the influences of the terrestrial forces which surround him, to plant within him the feeling of complete repose, and to dispose him to self-contemplation. All the exercises of the Cha-no-yu are directed to this object.
Clothed in light white garments, and without weapons, the members of the Cha-no-yu assemble round the master’s house, and, after resting some time in the ante-room, are conducted into a pavilion appropriated exclusively to these assemblies. This consists of the most costly kinds of wood, but is without any ornament which could possibly be abstracted from it; without colour, and without varnish, dimly lighted by small windows thickly overgrown with plants, and so low that it is impossible to stand upright.
The guests tread the apartment with solemn measured steps, and, having been received by him according to the prescribed formulas, arrange themselves in a half-circle on both sides of him. All distinctions of rank are abolished. The ancient vessels are now removed with solemn ceremonies from their wrappings, saluted and admired; and, with the same solemn and rigidly prescribed formulas, the water is heated on the hearth appropriated to the purpose, and the tea taken from the vessels and prepared in cups.
The tea consists of the young green leaves of the tea-shrub rubbed to powder, and is very stimulating in its effect. The beverage is taken amidst deep silence, while incense is burning on the elevated pedestal of honour,“ toko ;” and, after the thoughts have thus been collected, conversation begins. It is confined to abstract subjects; but politics are not always excluded.
The value of the vessels employed in these assemblages is very considerable ; indeed, they do not fall short of the value of our most costly paintings; and Taikosama often rewarded his generals with vessels of the kind, instead of land, as was formerly the practice. After the last revolution some of the more eminent Daimios (princes) of the Mikado were rewarded with similar Cha-no-yu vessels, in acknowledgment of the aid rendered to him in regaining the throne of his ancestors.
The best of them which I have seen were far from beautiful, simply being old, weather-worn, black or dark-brown jars, with pretty broad necks, for storing the tea in ; tall cups of cracked Craquelé, either porcelain or earthenware, for drinking the infusion; and deep, broad cisterns; besides rotten old iron kettles with rings, for heating the water : but they were enwrapped in the most costly silken stuffs, and preserved in chests lacquered with gold. Similar old vessels are preserved amongst the treasures of the Mikado and the Tycoon, as well as in some of the temples, with all the care due to the most costly jewels, together with documents relating to their history.
From Libmánan I visited the mountain, Yámtik (Amtik, Hantu),* which consists of lime, and contains many caverns. Six hours westward by water, and one hour S.S.W. on foot, brought us to the Visita Bícal, surrounded by a thousand little limestone hills; from which we ascended by a staircase of sinter in the bed of a brook, to a small cavern tenanted by multitudes of bats, and great long-armed spiders of the species Phrynus, known to be poisonous.t
A thick branch of a tree lying across the road was perforated from end to end by a small ant. Many of the natives did not venture to enter the cave; and those who did enter it were in a state of great agitation, and were careful first to enjoin upon each other the respect to be observed by them towards Calapnitan.
One of the principal rules was to name no object in the cave
- According to Father Camel (“Philosoph. Trans. London,” vol. xxvi. p. 246), hantu means black ants the size of a wasp; amtig, smaller black; and hantic, red ants.
† According to Dr. Gerstacker, probably Phrynus Grayi Walek Gerv., bringing forth alive. “S. Sitzungsb. Ges. Naturf. Freunde, Berl.” 18th March, 1862, and pourtrayed and described in G. H. Broun, “ Ord. Class.," vol. v. 184.
#Calapnit, Tayal and Bicol, the bat; calapnitan, consequently, lord of the bats.
without adding “Lord Calapnitan’s.” Thus they did not bluntly refer to either gun or torch, but devoutly said “Lord C.’s gun," or “Lord C.’s torch.” At a thousand paces from this lies another cave, “San Vicente,” which contains the same insects, but another kind of bat. Both caves are only of small extent; but in Libmánan a very large stalactite cave was mentioned to me, the description of which, notwithstanding the fables mixed up with it, could not but have a true foundation. Our guides feigned ignorance of it; and it was not till after two days’ wandering about, and after many debates, that they came to the decision, since I adhered to my purpose, to encounter the risk; when, to my great astonishment, they conducted me back to Calapnitan’s cave; from which a narrow fissure, hidden by a projection of rock, led into one of the most gorgeous stalactite caves in the world. Its floor was everywhere firm and easy to the tread, and mostly dry; and it ran out into several branches, the entire length of which probably exceeds a mile; and the whole series of royal chambers and cathedrals, with the columns, pulpits, and altars which it contained, reflected no discredit upon its description. No bones or other remains were to be found in it. My intention to return subsequently with labourers, for the purpose of systematic excavation, was not carried out.
A YOUNG SCAMP
I was not lucky enough to reach the summit of the mountain, upon which was to be found a lake, “whence the water formerly came here.” For two days we laboured strenuously at different points to penetrate the thick forest; but the conductor, who had assured the cura in Libmánan that he knew the road, now expressed himself to the contrary effect. I therefore made the fellow, who had hitherto been unburdened, now carry a part of the baggage as a punishment; but he threw it off at the next turning of the road and escaped, so that we were compelled to return. Stags and wild boars are very numerous in these forests; and they formed the principal portion of our meals, at which, at the commencement of our expedition, we had as many as thirty individuals; who, in the intervals between them, affected to search for snails and insects for me, but with success not proportionate to their zeal.
Upon my departure from Darága I took with me a lively little boy, who had a taste for the calling of a naturalist. In Libmánan he was suddenly lost, and with him, at the same time, a bundle of keys; and we looked for him in vain. The fact was, as I afterwards came to learn, that he went straight to Nága, and, justifying himself by showing the stolen keys, got the majordomo of my guest to deliver to him a white felt hat; with which he disappeared. I had once seen him, with the hat on his head, standing before a looking-glass and admiring himself; and he could not resist the temptation to steal it.
In the beginning of March I had the pleasure of accompanying the Minister (Administrador) of Camarines and a Spanish head-man, who were travelling across Daét and Mauban to the chief town. At five P.m. we left Butúngan on the Bícol River, two leagues below Nága, in a falúa of twelve oars, equipped with one 6-pounder and two 4-pounders, and reinforced by armed men; and about six we reached Cabusáo, at the mouth of the Bícol, whence we put to sea about nine. The falúa belonged to the administrator of taxes, and had, in conjunction with another under the command of the alcalde, to protect the north coast of the province against smugglers and pirates, who at this time of the year are accustomed to frequent the hiding-places of the bay of San Miguél. Two similar gun-boats performed the duty on the south coast of the province.
Both the banks of the Bicol River are flat, and expand into broad fields of rice; and to the east are simultaneously visible the beautiful volcanoes of Máyon, Yriga, Malinao, and Ysárog.
At daybreak we reached the bar of Daét, and, after two hours’ travelling, the similarly named chief city of the province of North Camarines, where we found an excellent reception at the house of the alcalde, a polished Navarrese ; marred only by the tame monkey, who should have welcomed the guests of his master,
Mountains of Bacacáy, from the Bar of Daét.
turning his back towards them with studiously uncourteous gestures, and going towards the door. However, upon the majordomo placing a spirit flask preserving a small harmless snake on
the threshold, the monkey sprang quickly back and concealed himself, trembling, behind his master.
In the evening there was a ball, but there were no dancers present. Some Indian women, who had been invited, sat bashfully at one end of the apartment and danced with one another when called upon, without being noticed by the Spaniards, who conversed together at the other end.
Our departure hence was delayed by festivities and sudden showers for about two days, after which the spirited horses of the alcalde carried us within an hour, on a level road north-west, to Talisay,
and in another hour to Indáng, where a An Indian Woman dancing
bath and breakfast were ready. Up to the Bulaqueña.
this time I had never seen a bath-room in the house of a Spaniard; whereas with the Northern Europeans it is never wanting. The Spaniards appear to regard the bath as a species of medicine, to be used only with caution; many, even to the present day, look upon it as an institution not quite Christian. At the time of the Inquisition frequent bathing, it is known, was a characteristic of the Moors, and certainly was not wholly free from danger. In Manila, only those who live near the Pásig are the exceptions to the rule; and there the bad practice prevails of whole families bathing, in the company of their friends, in the open air.
The road ended at Indáng, and at the well-supplied table of the amiable alcalde we awaited the horses which had been brought hither along a bad route by our servants. In the waste of Barre a castle, surrounded by 3 fishermen’s huts and as many casuarines, has been erected against the Moors, who, untempted by the same, seldom go so far westward, for it consists only of an open hut covered with palm-leaves—a kind of parasol—supported on stakes as thick as one’s arm and 15 feet high ; and the two cannons belonging to it ought, for security, to be buried. We followed the sea-shore, which is composed of silicious sand, and covered with a carpet of creeping shore plants in full bloom. On the edge of the wood, to the left, were many flowering
shrubs and pandanus with large scarlet-red flowers. After an hour we crossed the river Lóngos in a ferry, and soon came to the spur of a crystalline chain of mountains, which barred our road and extended itself into the sea as Point Longos.
The horses climbed it with difficulty, and we found the stream on the other side already risen so high that we rode knee-deep in the water. After sunset we crossed singly, with great loss of time, in a miserable ferry-boat, over the broad mouth of the Pulundága, where a pleasant road through a forest led us, in fifteen minutes, over the mountain-spur, Malangúit, which again projected itself right across our path into the sea, to the mouth of the Paracáli.
The long bridge here was so rotten that we were obliged to lead the horses over at wide intervals apart ; and on the further side lies the place called Paracáli, from which my companions continued their journey across Mauban to Manila.