The Story of Chigusa: An Online Workshop

Tea-leaf storage jar, named Chigusa
China, Southern Song or Yuan dynasty,
13th–14th century
Stoneware with iron glaze, height 41.6 cm
Freer Gallery of Art Purchase

The Story of Chigusa:
A Japanese Tea Jar’s 700-year History

An online workshop organized by the Freer|Sackler, Smithsonian Institution
Wednesday 2 November, 9:00-10:30 PM Eastern Time (EDT)
Thursday 3 November, 10:00-11:30 AM Japan Time (JST)

What can a single jar tell us about how objects acquired history and meaning within Japanese tea culture? The Freer Gallery recently acquired a tea-leaf storage jar named Chigusa. In so doing, the museum became yet another participant in a seven-century-long process, through which a Chinese jar came to Japan and was transformed into a famous and much-admired container for tea leaves, even acquiring a personal name. Tea masters’ diaries and connoisseur’s handbooks described and ranked it; successive owners endowed it with Chinese brocades, silk cords, inscriptions, documents, and multiple boxes. Chigusa has been described as a “time capsule”— an embodiment of the fascinating and complex process by which tea-related objects accrued meaning and value.

Four scholars gathered in Washington recently—in the inspiring presence of Chigusa—to consider aspects of the jar’s story. They will share their thoughts and discoveries, and then engage in discussion with participants.


  • Louise Allison Cort, Curator for Ceramics, Freer|Sackler
    How a Chinese jar became Chigusa; how Chigusa came to the Freer
  • Takeuchi Jun’ichi, Director, Hosokawa Collection–Eisei Bunko
    How did tea men look at Chigusa 400 years ago?
  • Andrew Watsky, Princeton University
    Chigusa’s name(s)
  • Oka Yoshiko, Otemae University
    Who owned Chigusa