Chado (茶道) is written with the characters for tea and way and is most often translated as “The Way of Tea”. Chanoyu (茶の湯) (Hot Water for Tea) is a related Japanese word. Chado and Chanoyu are also often translated as “Tea Ceremony” when “Tea Gathering” or just “Tea” might be a better translation.
While Kakuzo Okakura in The Book of Tea refers to “Teaism” as “a religion of aestheticisim”, like Kyudo (弓道) (the way of the bow), Kado (花道)(the way of flowers), Shodo (書道) (the way of the brush), or any of the many other tradtional practices designated by the character do (道), whose meaning is “way” or “path”, Chado is not truly a religion. It is true that Chado has deep historic connections to Buddhism, and probably began as a form of moving meditation practiced by monks in Buddhist temples. Consequently many practice Chado as means to achieve spiritual advancement through the discipline, mindfulness and consideration inherent in the “way”. While spiritual advancement is one way to approach Chanoyu, it can also be a path to aesthetic and intellectual expression through the beauty of the setting and utensils. Because the practice is social in nature, requiring both a host and at least one guest, the practice also serves to create and strengthen social ties. It should be noted that none of these motivations for choosing to practice Chado is mutually exclusive, and it is perhaps this very fact that makes Chado attractive to so many. For better or worse in Japan, both today and in the past, it has also been a way to display ones wealth, power and social status through the aquisition of rare and expensive utensils.
In Japanese it was the tradition to pronounce ‘chado’ more like ‘sado’. This is still the case in most schools of Tea. In 1964 Urasenke decided that there was a bad association with the word ‘sado’ in English and therefore decided to start using the pronunciation ‘chado’ instead. Cha and Sa are both valid pronunciations of the character for tea (茶).
It is a peculiar fact that the inaccurate translation “Tea Ceremony” is most often used to refer to the practice of Chado in English while many other Japanese art forms are known in the West by their original Japanese names:
Shodo 書道 – Calligraphy
Kyudo 弓道 – The way of the bow
Aikido 合気道 – Martial Art form
Karate 空手 – Martial Art form
Ikebana 生け花 – Flower arangement
Origami 折り紙 – Paper folding
Interstingly, among westerners who practice Chado or Chanoyu the term “Tea” is often the preferred way to reference the practice when speaking among fellow initiates.