Chawan - Japanese Tea Bowl

Chawan - (literally a “tea-bowl”) is a bowl used for preparing and drinking tea.

The chawan originated in China, the earliest chawan in Japan were imported from China as well.

The Chawan parts names

  • Kuchizukuri - a lip;
  • Chakinzure - area that contacts with a tea-cloth - chakin (a piece of a plain white linen used to wipe a tea bowl);
  • Chasenzure - area of a chawan where the chasen would rub against the sides (chasen is a bamboo whisk used to stir the tea);
  • Chadamari - a “tea pool”;
  • Kuchiberishita - a deflection below the lip;
  • Do - the body;
  • Koshi - a hip;
  • Kodaiwaki - a base outside a foot ring;
  • Kodaigiwa - angle between the base and the foot ring;
  • Kodai - a foot;
  • Kodainai - inside of the foot;
  • Tokin - a hill inside the foot;
  • Tatamitsuki - area that interacts with tatami;

The art of choosing utensils - toriawase, is a complex subject. We will do our best in covering it in future articles, but this trully is a thing, that has to be learned by observing tea practice of experienced students for years and decades.
"Honestly - I don't trust myself with toriawase yet and I don't expect it to change in next 10-15 years" (c) Hasan

In day to day life, there are no hard rules in choosing the chawan. During tea practice or temae, we choose chawan depending on other utensils being used, season, theme of the tea gathering and type of tea we are preparing: usucha or koicha.

Common chawan shapes

You can target these criteria to choose the best chawan for yourself:

      1. Shape - different tea prefers various cup shapes.
      2. Material - for those who drink tea on a daily basis pottery is recommended. It has a heat insulating effect and the part that you hold does not get hot easily. Glass is unsuitable for hot tea because it is highly heat-conducting. Glass is better for a summer for a cool visual effect drinking watered green tea or cold tea.
      3. Angle of a rim - (the lip or the part where you put your mouth). The thicker the rim, the softer the mouthfeel. If you often drink hot tea it is better to take a cup with a curved rim. In that case you can pinch the top and carry it around even if it is hot, without any discomfort.
      4. Production area - instead of brand names, in Japan the name of the potter and a school of thought is used. In many cases, the name of the potter is not known. In that case the place or a family is used. For example, "Oribe" chawan indicates, that it is produced by a member of Oribe family. "Shigaraki" on the other hand indicates the area of production. Most of the pieces, comming from that area will share similar characteristics, despite the potter.
      5. Design and color - one option is to choose out of your own preferences, other option is to find out the meaning of design and symbols.
      6. Season - it is important to consider what season are you in or even how you feel on that day to choose the cup. For example, if it is winter, use a Tsutsu-gata (cylinder type) cup which can keep the warmth fairly well.

Chawan foot types

The main idea is to enjoy and feel the tea, and chawan is a tool, designed for that. People in Japan value utilitary function of art piece, instead of creating museum-shelf pieces, that are never going to be used.

As long as you like their design and they are practical, basically any kind of chawan is acceptable to be used.

Resources:
Yamanenen
World Green Tea Association
Wikipedia
Terebess Center

Author: Wlada Morgun

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