Tea and the Way of Tea
by Gary Cadwallader : Excerpt from Daruma 57
Keeping it off the floor
Before a Tea gathering, two final objects the Host considers are actually vital: the kensui or used water receptacle and the futa-oki or kettle lid rest.
Both kensui and futaoki are among the utensils known as kaigu, matching metal or ceramic sets consisting of a mizusashi with tomobuta (fresh water container with matching lid), a shakutate (tall cylinder for the ladle and fire chopsticks), then the kensui and futaoki. Once the mid-Muromachi wabi Teamasters began making tea without the formal stand, which required kaigu, they began finding or designing a huge number of kensui and lid rests.
There are a number of famous kensui, at least two of which are Rikyû’s karakane bronze kaigu. One is a Ming Chinese bronze with a flaring mouth and ancient Shang-Yin style symmetrical dragons and thunder-frets. Another Rikyû (1522-91) kaigu set has a very simple shape, is undecorated and made by Jôami/Seiami.
A third famous set is the pure gold kaigu made for Shôgun Tokugawa Ieyasu who gave it to one of his sons, the daimyô of Owari (Nagoya); it can be seen at the Tokugawa Museum.
Rikyû also owned or favored a number of independent kensui. One is in large, deep, early Ki-Seto ware and could almost be a mizusashi hence its name Wakizashi (the short sword paired with a longer one).
Why and whence comes the word kensui? is another Chanoyu mystery. The second character means water but the first, ken, means to establish, erect or found—no hint!.
The author is professor of Tea at Urasenke Gakuen, and instructor for the Urasenke Foundation’s International Division in Kyoto. You can read the rest of this article by purchasing Daruma 57 from our Back Issues section.