Tea for Everyone: Japanese Popular Ceramics for Tea Drinking

March 8, 2008 – October 19, 2008

Freer Gallery of Art
Jefferson Drive and 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC

Gallery 6A Floor Plan

While displays tend to focus on the tea-drinking activities of the Japanese elite during the 16th-17th centuries, this exhibition presents a later moment in the history of tea when enjoyment of powdered tea (matcha) became widespread among artisans, townspeople, and farmers. On view are tea-leaf storage jars, water jars, tea bowls, tea cups, and tea pots used by people of modest means for sharing tea. Numerous small, provincial kilns active in the 19th century provided attractive, affordable ceramics for preparing and sharing powdered tea. Notably, farmers in northwestern Honshu used large round bowls made at local kilns both for drinking powdered tea and for eating rice. At the same time, another form of tea -- steeped tea in the Chinese style, known in Japan as sencha -- which had been introduced to Japan by a cultural elite, also became an everyday beverage among a wider swath of society.