Book review: Pearl Among the Clouds, Daily practices inspired by the Japanese Tea Ceremony,
By Ueda Sōkei, 16th Grandmaster of the Ueda Sōko Tradition of the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Translated into English by Adam Sōmu Wojcinński. 123 pages and illustrated. Purchase here
It seems lately that there are not many books published about the philosophy of Tea and even fewer books in English. My sincere gratitude to Adam Sōmu Wojcinński for making the effort to translate the words of Ueda Sōkei into English so that it reaches a wider audience that does not speak or read Japanese.
In my tea classes we have been discussing the many ways we can put what we learn in Chado into improving our everyday lives. This slim volume very succinctly puts a lot of those discussions into simple, easy to understand practices that tea people can take out of the tea room to enrich and enhance our daily lives. And in fact, these practices are simple enough that non-tea people can take them and use them every day, too.
The book is divided into four sections and further divided into short sub-sections from half a page to at the most 3 pages. This makes the book easy read and follow. It goes from very simple practices such as breathing and sitting and walking right on through to hosting a mini-tea gathering. It even has some simple seasonal recipes for a simple meal to accompany a tea gathering. Only at the very end, was a very short introduction to the Ueda Sōko tradition of Japanese Tea Ceremony.
What I liked about the book is that it was not overly dogmatic about the rules and restrictions in Japanese tea ceremony, nor does it try to convince the reader that they must spend years studying the procedures and etiquette of tea ceremony to benefit from the practice and approach to life.
I savored reading this book, and read only a few chapters in the evening before bed. The next day, I tried to focus on and put the exercises into practice. It was a way to reconnect with what I have studied and practiced for most of my adult life. This book will not be put on my bookshelf, it will stay on my night table to read over and over again.