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fw: chawan/yunomi, bowls/cups

updated thu 15 feb 01


vince pitelka on wed 14 feb 01

There was a post yesterday which rather summarily and inflexibly defined the
difference between Chawan and Yunomi. I decided to ask an expert (my son).
He generously provided the following.
- Vince

> Dear Clayart,
> The shapes of tea bowls and cups are really quite similar in Japan: the
> cylinder-shape with tall, straight walls; the conical shape with narrow
> base and wide, flaring mouth; the half-cylinder shape that is wider than
> is tall. Tea bowls and cups are easily confused if you look only at shape.
> The key is size. Tea bowls, not surprisingly, are bigger than cups.
> Flipping through the recent "Wamono chawan" (Japanese tea bowls), vol. 3
> the "Sadogu no sekai" (World of Tea Utensils) series (Tankosha: 2000), the
> large size of the bowls is quite apparent. Among the historical tea bowls
> in that volume:
> The Shino tea bowls have heights ranging from 7.9 to 9.8 cm, and diameters
> ranging from 11.6 to 14.1 cm. The Black Seto tea bowls have heights
> from 8.7 to 10.8 cm, and diameters ranging from 10.2 to 13.3. The Oribe
> bowls have heights ranging from 6.7 to 9.1 cm, and diameters ranging from
> 10.5 to 13.9 cm.
> And so on. The tallest bowls usually have the narrowest diameters, and the
> shortest bowls usually have the widest diameters. There are exceptions -
> sometimes you see a really small tea bowl. But in general, tea bowls are
> large vessels. We're not talking salad bowl size here, but bigger than a
> rice bowl.
> Cups, on the other hand, tend to range from 3.8 to 6 cm in height, and
> 4 to 5 cm in diameter. Some people make them taller or wider, but in
> general, they are considerably smaller than tea bowls. This is pretty
> obvious when you look through the ceramics in a gallery, department store,
> or workshop in Japan.
> Things are pretty clear in terms of size and shape, but not so clear in
> terms of, well, terminology. As you know, there are many kinds of tea and
> tea culture in Japan: steeped green tea (sencha), which became popular as
> Chinese-style literati tradition in the 18th century; black tea (kocha),
> adopted from Europe in the 19th century and drunk with milk and sugar or
> lemon; ground green tea (matcha), usually drunk in the context of chanoyu,
> the "tea ceremony." There are more, as well - bancha, hojicha, kenkocha,
> etc.
> Each kind of tea drinking has a slightly different vocabulary. In chanoyu,
> a tea bowl is large as I've described above. But in sencha (steeped tea),
> chawan is quite small, more like a cup or yunomi. Most people translate
> chawan as tea bowl when referring to chanoyu, and as tea cup when
> to sencha. (See Patricia Graham, "Tea of the Sages: The Art of Sencha",
> University of Hawaii Press, 1998, for examples of the latter). This just
> adds to the confusion.
> But hey! Culture changes! Language changes! Tradition is all about change,
> not about static conservatism. Call your bowl a cup or your cup a bowl if
> it feels right. After abstract and conceptual art, people who make things
> can call them whatever the hell they want, in my opinion.
> I was at the Chelsea Craft Fair last year and was looking at some lovely
> salt-glazed pots made by a British potter. She had a Japanese assistant
> was helping tend the booth, and things were quite busy. There were some
> small cylindrical vessels that in Japan would be called yunomi, labeled
> "tea bowls." I pointed at them and cocked my head. The assistant responded
> to the unspoken question, in English, "Those are tea bowls." I said, in
> Japanese, "Wouldn't those be called yunomi in Japan?" She flicked her gaze
> at the British potter to verify that she was helping another customer, and
> responded in Japanese: "This isn't Japan is it? She calls them tea bowls,
> so that's what they are."
> Morgan
> Morgan Pitelka
> Research Fellow
> Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures
> University of London

Vince Pitelka
Appalachian Center for Crafts
Tennessee Technological University
1560 Craft Center Drive, Smithville TN 37166
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