2012/06/18

Takeover of "Chawan"!?

In Japanese, there is a word known as “chawan”. ‘Cha’ means tea, and ‘wan’ does bowl, so it literally means tea-bowls. But that’s not it. Interestingly, the term refers to rice- bowls, too. Why does this happen??

With tea, high-quality ceramic wares to drink tea were also introduced into Japan in olden times and called “chawan”. Back then, tea was really precious and "chawan" were also treated as special. Gradually, the tea-drinking custom got more popular. The word became the general term of bowl-shaped ceramics, not only for tea-bowls. Then, in order to distinguish some ceramics, people began to call rice bowls “meshijawan (meshi means rice, jawan is just sound change of chawan) ”, and tea bowls “senchawan (shorten for sencha-chawan)”.

Chawan      -photo by tomo-
As time goes by, the situation has slightly changed. Nowadays, we use “chawan” mainly for rice-bowls. Tea-bowls are called "yunomijawan" or "yunomi" (yunomi literally means drinking hot water).

Rice bowls are taking over the word “chawan” from tea bowls, aren’t they?