The Story of Chigusa: A Japanese Tea Jar’s 700-Year History

When 27 Aug 2011
9:00PM - 10:30PM
Where The Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

United States

Tea-leaf storage jar named Chigusa, China, Southern Song or Yuan dynasty, 13th–14th century. Courtesy of Freer Gallery of Art

27 August 2011, 9-10:30pm

Press Release:

An online workshop organized by the Freer|Sackler, Smithsonian Institution.

What can a single jar tell us about how objects acquired history and meaning within Japanese tea culture? The Freer Gallery recently acquired a tea-leaf storage jar named Chigusa. In so doing, the museum became yet another participant in a seven-century-long process, through which a Chinese jar came to Japan and was transformed into a famous and much-admired container for tea leaves, even acquiring a personal name. Tea masters’ diaries and connoisseur’s handbooks described and ranked it; successive owners endowed it with Chinese brocades, silk cords, inscriptions, documents, and multiple boxes. Chigusa has been described as a “time capsule”— an embodiment of the fascinating and complex process by which tea-related objects accrued meaning and value.

Four scholars gathered in Washington recently—in the inspiring presence of Chigusa—to consider aspects of the jar’s story. They will share their thoughts and discoveries, and then engage in discussion with participants.

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