The Japanese tea ceremony, also known as The Way of Tea, is the ceremonial preparation and presentation of tea or, matcha. Matcha refers to the powdered green tea used in the ceremony. It is at the heart of Japanese culture and is intricately beautiful because of the exactness of its execution.
At the center of these Japanese tea ceremonies or chanoyu, one will typically find a simple arrangement of flowers called chabana. Chabana, literally translated, means, “tea flowers.” It is a simple style of flower arrangement which evolved from the ikebana style of flower arrangement. Chabana arrangements are comprised of few items with very little fillers – the most important item in the arrangement is seasonal flower or flowers. Sometimes a chabana arrangement may simply comprise of a single flower. Finally, the flower used in the arrangement are placed in the chabana vase so that it leans towards the guests.
Unlike ikebana flower arrangements which utilize shallow, wide vases in its presentation, chabana is typically presented in tall, narrow vases. These vases are usually made from natural materials although more contemporary arrangements utilize other manmade materias such as ceramic. Some natural materials used to make chabana vases with may be bamboo or other wood materials or cut stone. In fact one object considered to be one of Japan’s national treasures is the very first bamboo vessel used to display chabana beloning to Sen no Rikyu who was the originator of this art.
Being made of natural materials, these vases often show signs of wear and decay over time. Bamboo vases begin to show cracks that grow larger as time passes. Stone vases begin to change shades and texture. These changes in the aesthetics of the chabana vase are not cause for it to be thrown out as old and ugly. On the contrary, these aesthetic imperfections are referred to by the Japanese as wabi sabi and is considered to be part of the beauty of the vase. Wabi sabi is often described as one of beauty that is, “imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.” This is a fitting reminder to those appreciating these flower arrangements that we too are things of beauty with all of our imperfections, our impermanence and our lack of completeness. It promotes the Zen concept of acceptance and appreciation of all things as they are.