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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Timothy P. Olson
BIS 393
Bothell Campus

Special Topics

Various topics designed to respond to faculty and student interests and needs.

Class description

This class traces the evolution of tea drinking in Japan from a monastic ritual imported from China and an amusement among the early samurai to its culmination as an aesthetic and ethical discipline which has had profound influence on the arts of Japan since the 16th Century through the “wabi” ideal of beauty and the spirit of Zen. Since Chado, or the Way of Tea, is a distillation of Japanese belief systems, aesthetics and social behaviors, this class can provide a useful platform for other Asian studies.

Student learning goals

Students will be introduced to the indigenous and imported religious and philosophical systems (Taoism, Confucianism, Zen Buddhism and Shinto) that inform the Japanese Way of Tea.

Students will become acquainted with and experience some of the educational techniques that distinguish teaching and learning in Japan from that in the West.

Students will learn the history of tea culture, from its first introduction in the 9th Century to its flowering seven centuries later, along with the political and social milieux that nourished it.

Students will be introduced to the unique aesthetic principles embodied in the practice of Tea (including the concepts of wabi and sabi) which have spread beyond the Tea world and influenced Japanese thought and art at every level.

Patterns of movement for guest and host are experienced first hand in the studio in the process of learning a simple tea ceremony, with the goal of developing sufficient understanding and skill to continue Chado as a discipline.

General method of instruction

Weekly lectures explore religious and philosophical antecedents, history and aesthetics of the Way of Tea through talks, PowerPoint presentations, and videos. Studio sessions acquaint students with actual tearoom practices through one-on-one instruction and performance of the roles of guest and host.

Recommended preparation

There are no academic prerequisites for taking this class. The ability to sit Japanese-style (kneeling position) on a tatami floor is helpful. Experience in Japanese language, culture, art history is useful, but not critical.

Most of the lecture material will be completely new to students, and much of the terminology is Japanese, so excellent note-taking skills and memorizing ability are desirable for success in this course. Instructor supplies study guides for lectures and detailed summaries of studio experiences as learning aids.

Class assignments and grading

Required reading in the essay collection "Tea in Japan" (available to borrow in the Library or for purchase at the Bookstore) supports lecture material.

A short (four- to five-page) research paper will be assigned.

Exams include two midterms and a final.

Final grade is determined by averaging results of mid-term and final exams, research paper, and studio performance.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Timothy P. Olson
Date: 01/30/2012