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The Way of Tea, the Way of the Buddha


Admission requirements



Tea is a sort of ‘mysterious’ drink. Not as strong as alcohol or drugs, yet from ancient times until today, both in East Asia and in the West, it has shaken the history of the world. From the Opium Wars and the ceding of Hong Kong to the British to the American Revolution with it’s ‘Boston Tea Party’ to the rise of the socialist state of Mongolia, tea has been deeply implicated in many great events and movements of world history. In particular, its impact on the culture of Japan has been profound.

From its beginnings in the mountainous areas of southwestern China, in present-day Yunnan, the drinking of tea permeated China, and this progress was intimately connected with Buddhism. And mixed with Buddhism, tea came to Japan, and from this intermingling of tea and Buddhism developed the special ‘Japanese Art of Tea.’

This course begins in Yunnan, following the current of tea and tea culture from the Chinese culture sphere to Japan, with particular attention to its relations with Buddhism and Buddhist culture.

Course objectives

A seminar style investigation of the origins of tea culture in Yunnan in Southwest China, tracing its interactions with Buddhism from Tang China through to Japan, including in art and material culture.


1-2: General introduction; tThe origins and spread of tea; the ‘water network’ of Yunnan, Sichuan, the Yangtze river, the East China sea, and Japan, and the ‘evergreen forest region culture’ of East Asia.

3-4: Tea in the Tang dynasty, the Classic of Tea, and the discoveries at the Famensi temple

5-6: The transmission of tea to Japan along with Buddhism, Heian period (9~12 c.) Japanese Buddhism, artistocratic culture and the ‘elegance’ (miyabi) of tea.

7-8: the 14th century, the roughly resplendent tea culture of the warriors, and Buddhist protective deities.

9-10: The monk Eisai’s Kissa yōjōki and Zen Buddhism

11-12: The 16th century, the tea master Sen no Rikyū and the Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and ‘The Way of Tea’ as a matter of life and death


See Timetable.
Start course: October 10

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Assessment method


Reading list

To be announced



Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Contact information: Prof.dr. J.A. Silk