Rikyu elevated Chado
, the way of tea, to an artform. He perfected the tea ceremony
, defining the procedure
, the utensils
used, and the architechture of the teahouse
Rikyu was born to a wealthy merchant family in 1522, Sakai, Japan. Named Sen Soeki, the emperor renamed him Sen Rikyu in order to give him the respect of a Buddhist layman.
Rikyu returned the tea ceremony to its roots in wabi, which emphasized nature and simplicity, and sabi, which translates loosely to tranquility. The modern tea ceremony has changed only slightly from the example Rikyu provided.
Rikyu established the four princaples of Chado, wa (harmony), kei (respect), sei (purity), and jaku (tranquility). Emperor Hideyoshi respected Rikyu and was his student. However, as Rikyu's fame as a tea master grew, Hideyoshi became quite jealous. When a new gate was erected in the palace, the builders put a statue of Rikyu at the top to honor the great tea master. When Emperor Hideyoshi saw this he became outraged that he would have to pass under the feet of Rikyu every time he passed through the gate. Hideyoshi ordered Rikyu to commit ritual suicide, and Rikyu complied, composing this poem before his death:
I raise the sword,
This sword of mine,
Long in my possession
The time is come at last.
Skyward I throw it up!
A haiku by Rikyu:
Haji o sute hito ni mono toi naraubeshi korezo jozu motoi nari keru.
Translation: Sometimes a person may feel embarrassed to ask questions. That embarrassment should be set aside and questions asked.
Rikyu died in Kyoto in 1591.