Sen no Rikyu, the tea master 千利休
Great figure of the fifteenth century
Sen no Rikyu is a Japanese tea master from the wabi school. A former Zen monk, he studied tea for many years before becoming, at the age of 58, the tea master of the Emperor's first adviser.
“ The Way of Tea is nothing more than this: first you boil the water, then you make the tea and drink it. “The subject is clear, limpid but also very simple. We owe this maxim to Sen no Rikyu. A tea master who marked his time and who met a tragic destiny .
Sen no Rikyu, whose real first name is Yoshiro, is the son of a merchant who became a samurai. He embraced the career of a monk at the Daitoku-ji temple, where he followed Zen training. Until now, nothing predestined this young boy to become one of the most recognized tea masters.
See: In the footsteps of the samurai
ONE OF THE PRECURSORS OF PURITY
But it was at 19 that he met this green gold. He then begins to study tea under the guidance of Takeno Joo, faithful to the wabi sabi aesthetic. Aesthetics where priority is given to simplicity and which rejects ostentation , both in gestures and in the utensils used.
Sen no Rikyu was thus one of the forerunners in the use of Raku ceramic tea bowls as well as rustic and artisanal Japanese utensils, leaving aside the more decorative and much more expensive Chinese objects. This rejection of ostentation and the quest for refinement in simplicity was the central element of Sen no Rikyu's quest, which made him one of the outstanding figures of wabi sabi .
THE ART OF TEA
The tea master identified four fundamental qualities of a perfectly performed tea ceremony:
Qualities that should also innervate the very life of tea masters. Perfecting his techniques from year to year, he became, at the age of 58, the tea master of Nobunaga Oda, first adviser to the emperor . Then of his successor, Hideyoshi Toyotomi .
To read: Chanoyu, the tea ceremony
In 1585, while Hideyoshi Toyotomi was hosting a tea party at the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, Sen no Rikyu received the honorary title of Koji Buddhist from Emperor Ogimachi. Thus rewarding his pure and devout practice of Buddhism .
AN EPIC LIFE
However, in 1591, Hideyoshi Toyotomi would have asked Sen no Rikyu to commit suicide , for reasons that remain unclear today. Some argue jealousy of Hideyoshi Toyotomi following the installation of a statue of Sen no Rikyu above a door he used every day, while others consider a traitor of the tea master, or even a jealousy story. The famous tea master therefore met a tragic end , which enveloped him even more with an extraordinary aura .
A ROMANTIC MAN
So much so that one of his first disciples, Yamanoue Soji, embarked on a historical work on the art of tea which compiled the entirety of the teachings of the late master . While Yasushi Inoue, a famous contemporary Japanese writer , made Sen no Rikyu one of the main characters in his novel "The Tea Master", published in 1981. The main character, a monk and disciple of Rikyu, tries over the pages to unlock the secret surrounding the suicide of his master.
More than 400 years after his death, Sen no Rikyu continues to be talked about.