Ikebana, Flowers and Tea插花、花道與茶

During my journey on the “Way of Tea” I have been exploring different layers of cultural influences and similarities. Ikebana, the “Way of Flowers” or simply “Flower Arrangement” already came across my way several times. I participated in seminars, workshops and exhibitions in Taiwan, China and Japan. Without paying much attention to it, it has somehow always been around. Although I was not really thinking much about it, even in my regular tea sessions a small vase with flowers has always accompanied the tea arrangements. Ironically I just recently had the chance to attend an amazing seminar about Ikebana in Berlin to realize its actual meaning and its magnificent analogy with tea.

While drinking tea, of course, at first it is all about tea. As tea interacts and correlates with its environment, flower arrangement and the essential ideas of aesthetics and naturalness basically do the same. In other words it influences the atmosphere and mood. It brings a certain kind of freshness and nature on the tea table. However, if we are rather talking about Ikebana itself, it is also a distinguish way of life and functions as a kind of “glasses” through which you see the world and interact with it. The “Way of Flowers” is a great opportunity to learn from nature and practice awareness, calmness and aesthetics, as well as creating a liberate attitude.

The spiritual aspects of Ikebana are described as follows: “It is a time to appreciate things in nature that people often overlook because of their busy lives. One becomes more patient and tolerant of differences, not only in nature, but also in general. Ikebana can inspire one to identify with beauty in all art forms. This is also the time when one feels closeness to nature, which provides relaxation for the mind, body, and soul.” While reading this definition, I immediately felt like the same concept applies for tea. I believe the common or general sense behind many traditional Asian arts, their core meaning, is pretty much con-natural.

From a more practical perspective, we can observe that certain teas suit better for certain seasons, occasions and weather. During a cold winter day a nice and strong black tea with its rich flavours can warm you up immediately and create a comfortable and cozy mood. While during a hot summer day a light and fresh green tea cools you down and provides you with a distinguish sense of freshness. It even applies for different times in a day, or different geographical locations. Imagine how this goes along with Ikebana. As tea follows its seasons, Ikebana does the same.

Winter is finally over, you’re enjoying the first spring harvest of a lightly oxidized Wulong tea and next to your tea ware a discrete but lively Ikebana arrangement with fresh flowers and blossoms is placed, accompanied by some greens that reflect the colours and fragrances of your infusion. The leaves are turning red and begin to fall, it is autumn and after the heat of summer you begin to feel a slight but matured chill. A hearty brownish “Rock Tea” with its rich mineral flavours and indescribable pleasant smoky roasting that still carries some memories of late summer sun within will cheer you up again, while enjoying the beauty of your Ikebana with autumn leaves, reed and some wood. Not even mentioning the different Flora in Taiwan, Japan, Yunnan or Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein and the Alps…

Tea is a product of nature that follows the rules of nature. It builds the bridge between people, culture, arts and nature. Bringing something from outside to inside, bringing nature directly to your tea and arrange it in the aesthetic way of Ikebana is such a rewarding and accomplishing gesture. What I have learned and realized during this workshop is that there is a lot of knowledge, theory, rules and proportions, but the spirit of the arrangement of Ikebana itself is like a free and open game that should aim for beauty, calmness, awareness and enjoyment. And believe me, a bunch of adults in their best age spending their spare time sitting together arranging flowers, might seem to be awkward in the beginning, but it was a lot of fun. We laughed and learned a lot, isn’t that what it all should be about?

Thanks to Rie Ono, https://www.rieono.com, for sharing her knowledge and experience with us and to break down the essentials in a comprehensible and entertaining way! And to Lukas to convince me to “rather do flower bouquets than going for a beer”!

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