Chanoyu and Chinese Culture:
About “Gei (Art)” (Part One)
By Sekine Souchuu, Urasenke Head of Affairs

Traditional Japanese culture can be classified under many names. For example, there are various terms like “geidou” or “geinou” and also “yuugei” or “geigoto”. However, clarifying the difference between them is more difficult than one’d expect. According to the dictionary, geinou and yuugei are “terms for very popular arts of amusement.” On the other hand, geidou is “the Way of ascetic training in a craft or art (geinou)”. Compared to geinou, geidou is thought to be the uniting of the way the person and the art are, in other words, being involved with ascetic training is endowed with a deep spirituality.
In short, here we can be classified as being involved in amusement or as being involved in ascetic training. In any case, today in which chado is called a “composite art”, it is thought that a renewed consideration of the condition of the arts is needed.

The meaning of “gei (art)”
Well, I imagine you have heard the proverbs “Art(gei) helps oneself” and “Those who excell in an art(gei) are well-informed in everything”. About the meaning of gei as used in these two proverbs, a big difference in the meaning of gei as used in these two proverbs and how gei is usually used can be seen.
First, let us peruse a proverbs dictionary on the phrase “Art helps oneself”.

An art learned as a hobby and pasttime may in time provide a one with a livelihood.

Here, we can understand this to mean that if we have obtained the qualifications as a teacher versed in chadou, kadou (flower arrangement), or other arts (geigoto), we can making a living teaching them in times of economic poverty.
Futhermore, deeply interestingly, there is an English proverb

Learn a trade, for the time will come when you shall need it.

We can understand this as not alluding to providing for one’s livelihood, but as discovering that the art is useful at an unexpected time. In short, it will fulfill an utilitarian need.





(Learn a Trade, for the time will come when you shall need it.)