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Ritual Reinvention

Part 2 Dissertation 2011
Lucy Block
University of Sheffield, UK
Ritual has played a key role in the formation of cultures and society throughout history and has influenced many aspects of the way we live. Anthropological perspectives on the subject are frequently based on the assumption that ritual can be described as an act that defines the sacred from the profane; a sacred and formalised tradition that follows religious doctrines to influence people’s lives.

This study explores the importance of ritual within Japanese culture, through an investigation into chado; the Japanese way of tea, and its architectural manifestation as embodied in the typology of the tea house and garden. This ancient ritual is a rich and complex subject and is a defining example of the Japanese intertwined nature of religion and social convention. Within the ritual setting and ceremony of chado, we are confronted with a complex series of actions and symbolic gestures that culminate in the achievement of a heightened awareness and sacred experience.

Japanese tea culture holds a unique position within ritual theory in that the ritual, and its associated philosophy, appears to contradict fundamental methods of analysis regarding ritual behaviour. Chado does not conform to conventional religious doctrines and as such, in order to analyse the role of the Japanese tea ritual within cultural practice, it was essential to consider the creation and realisation of the ritual act. Chado has developed and been influenced by religious, social and political means throughout its development, and the ‘ritual reinvention’ and¬ evolution of the way of tea have been fundamental in the development of the architectural ritual environment.

It is my view that anthropological and architectural studies of ritual have been considered as separate tools for analysis and thereby have been ineffectual at realising an holistic interpretation of this complex field of study. Ritual space is a vastly rich topic and in order to analyse such an environment we must consider it not only through architectural, but also anthropological, religious and historical considerations. Only then can we fully comprehend the nature of ritual space and the methods through which it can be reinterpreted for the world we live in.

Lucy Block

Stephen Walker
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