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Unformatted text preview: amurai elite of the Muromachi shogunate featured tea-judging contests (tòcha), the object of which was to distinguish
between Toganoo tea and tea grown in other regions of Japan. The extraordinarily high esteem in which Toganoo tea was held can be observed in
the fact that it was called “real tea” (honcha) and the other teas were dismissed as “non-tea” (hicha).34
The tea-judging contests, which became something of a craze, were
often accompanied by linked-verse sessions and, afterward, by the drinking of sake, communal bathing, and gambling.35 In all, the contests and
their sequels must have been lively, frequently bawdy, occasions. A certain
parvenu daimyo named Sasaki Dòyo (1306–73) became especially con- 126 The Canons of Medieval Taste spicuous about mid-fourteenth century for the gala tea parties he threw.
In staging these parties, Dòyo ostentatiously displayed his collection of
Chinese objets d’art, including ceramics and other articles used in the
preparation and drinking of tea, samples of calligraphy, and painted
screens and hanging scrolls.
Dòyo’s flaunting of his “foreign pieces” was symptomatic of the general passion for all things Chinese among the newly affluent samurai
leaders of the fourteenth century. Envoys who went to China on behalf
of these leaders eagerly purchased all the works of art they could find,
particularly paintings attributed to Sung and Yüan masters. In the process, they exercised very little critical judgment, accepting many pictures
simply on verbal guarantees of their authenticity or on the basis of seals
that could easily have been forged. As a consequence, many of the most
dearly cherished items in the Chinese art collections of men like Sasaki
Dòyo were quite likely of dubious value.
Not until the Higashiyama epoch did the Japanese begin to take careful stock of the numerous artworks and antiques they had so randomly
imported from China for several centuries. Yoshimasa assigned members
of a group called the “companions” (dòbòshû) to survey and catalog the
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13