Professor Midori McKeon introduces Japanese tea ceremony to students

Collage of photos from a Japanese tea ceremony

Professor Midori McKeon, professor of modern languages and literatures, is the teishu, or host, of the Japanese tea ceremony in the Japanese tea room on campus. The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival begins in San Francisco April 8. Photo credit: Gospel Cruz.

Rarely can a commodity bought, sold and consumed around the globe define a way of life, but tea is a drink shared as an important part of many cultures. Modern Languages and Literatures Professor Midori McKeon brings back the ancient art of tea drinking with the Chanoyu, or formal Japanese tea ceremony, every year in one of SF State’s best-kept secrets — an authentic tea room inside the Humanities Building.

McKeon performs the meticulous, hour-long ceremony in a careful process that emphasizes the beauty in stillness, humility and calm silence. One afternoon this November, McKeon hosted six sessions with 44 students.

Before each ceremony begins, McKeon gives insight on the history of the art form. In 1191, a priest named Yosai brought to Japan excellent tea seeds as well as the method of blending tea powder and hot water directly in a tea bowl after visiting China during the Song Dynasty (690 – 1279) to study Buddhism. Chanoyu, the ceremony also known as Way of Tea, was developed from this method and tea master Sen no Rikyu influenced the addition of spiritual elements from Zen Buddhism to Chanoyu during the 1500s.

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