"This is the Chinese version of Tupperware," says Andrew Watsky, professor of Japanese art history at Princeton, about tea storage jars that became a staple of the tea ceremony in 16th century Japan. Watsky spoke recently with Morning Edition's Susan Stamberg about the history of the ceremony.
In the 13th century, tea was little known in Japan except what was shipped from China in simple, ceramic storage jars. Three hundred years later, the jars became part of the ceremony practiced by the elite. The process of drinking tea is also fundamentally a process in learning "how to look," Watsky says. "To be politically powerful at this time also meant that you had to show that you had some sort of cultural sophistication as well."