Zen Kyoto

Japanese Chawan

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Japanese Chawan are tea bowls used in tea ceremonies. Many types of Chawan are used in tea ceremonies and the choice in each ceremony depends on a number of considerations. Chawan can generally be classified into 4 categories according to their place of origin - Karamono which is imported from China, Kōraimono which is imported from Korea, Wamono which is Chawan traditionally made in Japan, and Raku which is by far the most important style of Japanese Chawan.

Below is a list of styles under the 4 categories of Chawan.

Karamono Koraimono Wamono Raku
Tenmoku Iji Karatsu Chojiro I
Haikatsugi Mishima Asahi Kōetsu
Yohen Kaki-no-heta Oku-gorai Nonko
Kensan Kinsan Iga  
Yuteki Ido Hagi  
Taihisan Gōki Seto  
Seiji Goshō Maru Setoguro  
Hakuji Totoya Izumo  
Sometsuki Katade Komogai Shigaraki  
  Kohiki Oribe  
  Amamori Shonzui  
  Hagame Genpin  
  Sōhaku Shino  
  Gohon Satsuma  

Tenmoku Chawan

The first Chawan used in Japan was imported from China from the 13th to the 16th century. It was called the Tenmoku Chawan and originated from the Tianmu Mountain in China. Tenmoku Chawan was the preferred Chawan in Japan until the 16th century.

Seto Chawan

By the end of the Kamakura period, the Japanese started creating their own Chawan by imitating the Tenmoku Chawan. The first Japanese Chawan was made in Seto. Although the Tenmoku Chawan was derived from the Chinese original which came in various colors, shapes, and designs, the Japanese particularly liked bowls with a tapered shape, so most Seto-made Tenmoku Chawan had this shape.

Chawan in Japanese tea ceremonies

As far as Japanese tea ceremonies are concerned, there is a saying “First Raku, second Hagi, third Karatsu”. The Raku Chawan is considered the top style of Chawan to be used in tea ceremonies, with the Hagi and Karatsu styles also highly valued.

Raku Chawan

The Raku Chawan (raku-yaki) has a profound relationship with the Japanese tea ceremony and the “way of tea”. Raku means “"enjoyment", "comfort" or "ease" and is derived from Jurakudai, the name of a palace in Kyoto. Chōjirō, the father of Raku Chawan, was originally a tile-maker. When Sen no Rikyū, the person who historically had the most profound influence on Japanese tea ceremonies, was asked to aid in the construction of the Juradukai, he asked Chōjirō to make Chawans for use in tea ceremonies. Sen no Rikyū wanted hand-moulded Chawans ideal for the Wabi-styled tea ceremony, which emphasized simplicity. The resulting chawans made by Chōjirō were initially referred to as "ima-yaki" ("Contemporary ware") and were also distinguished as Juraku-yaki, from the red clay (Juraku) that they employed.

Rakuyaki Chawan

The warrior statesman, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who ordered the construction of the Juradukai, presented Jokei, Chōjirō's son, with a seal that bore the Chinese character for Raku. Raku then became the name of the family that produced the wares, and Chōjirō was thereafter referred to as Raku Chōjirō.

Both the name and the ceramic style have been passed down through the family (sometimes by adoption). The second generation Raku potter Joukei continued Chōjirō's work, but the line was solidified by the third generation master Dounyuu(1599-1656) also called Nonkou, patronized by Sen Soutan(1578-1658) and Honnami Kouetsu(1558-1637). Kouetsu originated a highly viscous glaze Makugusuri for which later Raku Chawan are famous.

Black Raku

The present 15th generation is originated by Kichizaemon Raku. The name and the style of ware has become influential in both Japanese culture and literature.

The Raku style Chawan is divided into two sub-styles. The orthodox school in the Raku tradition is called “Original kilns” (Hongama). There are also "Branch kilns" (Wakigama), in the Raku tradition, that have been founded by Raku-family members or potters who apprenticed at the head family's studio. One of the most well-known of these is Ōhi-yaki (Ōhi ware).

Hagi Chawan

Hagi Chawan(Hagi-yaki) is a type of Japanese pottery most identifiable for its humble forms and use of translucent white glaze. It originated in the early 17th century with the introduction of potters brought back from Japanese invasions of Korea. The local daimyo of the time were very interested in tea ceremony and funded production of this ware. Potters mix different types of local clay. The most standard result is a pink-orange color, called Korean clay. Wares are formed on the wheel and decorated with translucent glaze made of feldspar and ash. The signature chip located on the bottom is a local tradition from the Edo period when potters would deliberately disfigure their wares in order to sell them to merchants instead of presenting them as gifts to the Mōri clan.

Karatsu Chawan

Karatsu has been a hub of foreign commerce and trade since ancient times, and a center of pottery production since the Azuchi-Momoyama period. Today there are many kilns in use as well as ruins of kilns scattered throughout the area in Saga Prefecture. The pottery style draws its name from the location where it is produced. The techniques used in creating Karatsu ware are believed to have been imported from the Korean peninsula during the Japanese invasions of Korea during the late 16th century, though some theories suggest the techniques may have been in use prior to this period. Karatsu ware was originally created for everyday use items such as tableware, pitchers, and other household items. The style is considered a good example of the wabi-sabi aesthetic, and Karatsu ware bowls, plates, and other implements are often used in tea ceremonies. Pottery in general is often called "Karatsu ware" in Western Japan due to how much pottery was produced in the Karatsu area.

Table comparing the three types of Chawan

Raku chawan Hagi chawan Karatsu chawan
Japanese in origin Korean in origin Korean in origin
Simple color, signifies wabi (simplicity) Simple in design Sturdy and simple
Hand crafted Wheel crafted Wheel crafted