Wednesday, August 03, 2005

How the East viewed the West

Recently, I've begun reading Kakuzo Okakura's The Book of Tea, which is the book to read about the philosophy behind the Japanese tea ceremony and the concept of teasim (the "religion" of tea.)

I've always tried to tell people that tea was liquid Zen, so it's good to finally be finding out why and what exactly it is that makes that statement true.

Mr. Okakura wrote the book in English, so no one can claim translation errors. That's probably why it's considered an essential resource for those interested in this aspect of Japanese culture, even if it was written a hundred years ago.

The reason I bring the book up is because of this delightful passage I found in chapter one. Mr. Okakura is lamenting the prejudical attitudes that those of the West have for his countrymen and mentions one or two of the "assumptions" Westerners (of that time) had of Asian people. (Did we really think they ate cockroaches?) So Mr. Okakura writes about how the same can be said for the way Asian people think of Westerners:

"Our writers in the past—the wise men who knew—informed us that you had bushy tails somewhere hidden in your garments, and often dined off a fricassee of newborn babes!" (pg 6-7, Shambhala Library Edition, 2003.)

Bushy tails hidding in our garments? Well, it gives new meaning to the Chinese insult for white people (which can be translated into something like "smells like fox.")

Makes one wonder if maybe their fox spirits came to Japan from the West, since we have some much in common. XD