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Seminar, Exhibition, and Conference to Focus on Renowned Tea Artefact

August 29, 2014

An extraordinary tea-leaf storage jar made in China in the late 13th or 14th century and recently acquired by the Freer and Sackler Galleries of Art in Washington, DC, will be the centerpiece of an exhibition at the Princeton University Art Museum co-curated by Professor Andrew Watsky and Louise Cort. Chigusa and the Art of Tea in Japan (October 11, 2014–February 1, 2015) focuses on the jar, which spent seven hundred years in Japan, where it acquired multiple dimensions of significance—practical vessel for storing tea leaves; valuable and esteemed antique Chinese jar; and respected object with an individualized name, Chigusa, taken from court poetry. The exhibition, which is accompanied by a book coedited by Watsky and Cort, will explore the ways of appreciating, displaying, using, and documenting this prestigious Chinese antique turned tea jar. It will also reveal how tea practice in Japan created a performative culture of seeing, using, and ascribing meaning to objects.

In conjunction with the museum’s exhibition, Watsky will teach a seminar this fall focusing on the diverse arts employed in pre-modern chanoyu, the Japanese practice of drinking bowls of whisked powdered tea while in a specially designed architectural space equipped with a range of objects selected for the participants’ appreciation. The seminar will investigate the physical and conceptual adaptations of objects for chanoyu, the practice of bestowing proper names on inanimate things, the tea men’s invention of a new aesthetic ideal, and their creation of multimedia ensembles, including ceramics, paintings, and architecture.

A related international symposium, “Chigusa in Context: In and Around Chanoyu in Sixteenth-Century Japan,” organized by Watksy and the P. Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Center for East Asian Art, took place on campus on November 7–8, 2014. The symposium focused on Chigusa and its relationship to the broader production and appreciation of the arts in 16th-century Japan. Although chanoyu was a deeply engaging practice, it was not pursued in isolation, and Chigusa and its admirers inevitably intersected with artists and aspects of Japanese culture outside chanoyu; the symposium will examine this expansive art world during the century of the jar’s greatest acclaim.