Zen, Tea, and Power

Japan House is excited to offer ARTJ 397: Zen, Tea, and Power, a new course starting Spring 2022, taught by Omar Francis. Both inside and outside of Japan, the actions of the samurai, merchants, and Zen monks have been reduced down to easily digestible stereotypes. “The samurai were fierce warriors who ruled by the might of their swords while Zen monks meditated on distant mountains in the search of peace and enlightenment. All the while, the merchants got rich from the labor of others.” However, the reality of their actions cannot not be so quickly explained.

Chanoyu gave vitality to Zen.
Zen gave credibility to chanoyu.
Chanoyu gave the wealthy merchants and samurai access to the spirituality and knowledge of Zen institutions.

The goal in this course is to use the in-depth explanation and analysis of the development of chanoyu (the Japanese tea ceremony/tea) to illustrate how interrelated and mutually supportive these social groups were.

What you’ll do

This course is an introduction to the dynamic history of Zen, tea, and power through the in-depth explanation and analysis of the development of chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony); illustration of interrelated and mutually supportive social groups and key figures in Japanese history; emphasis on critical analysis of scholarly articles and books to gain understanding and knowledge of Japanese arts and culture; and discussion of the application of Japanese aesthetics, theories, and philosophies.

What You’ll Learn

Students will learn to describe the importance of chanoyu in Japanese culture, list and explain some of the motivations of the samurai, Zen Buddhist monks, and merchants of premodern Japan for being a part of the world of chanoyu, and describe how their personal experiences relate to chanoyu as a way to bridge the cultural gap between them and premodern Japan.


No requirements. This course is open to all students.

Class Schedule

This 3 credit hour class meets twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the spring semester for the whole semester from 2:00PM - 3:20PM. This course is synchronous and will be taught online.

Meet the Instructor

Omar Francis sensei with Kimiko Gunji sensei.

Omar Francis is a licensed instructor in the Urasenke Tradition of Chadō, commonly known as the Japanese Tea Ceremony. First introduced to Chadō at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign by Professor Kimiko Gunji in 1992, he was later admitted into the Midorikai program for a year of intensive training at the Urasenke headquarters in Kyoto, Japan. Since then, he has continued his studies as a member the Chicago Association of Urasenke, taking part in many educational and cultural activities. Francis Sensei is currently teaching at the Japanese Culture Center (japaneseculturecenter.com) in Chicago, IL.