"Der Teekult in Japan". Eine Erinnerung an das grundlegende Werk von Anna Berliner

  • Detlef Kantowsky (Autor/in)

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Anna Berliner's (1888-1977) book on the tea-cult in Japan (Leipzig, 1933) is an extensive and highly instructive manual of the practice of the Japanese tea-ceremony. It is based on first-hand experiences in Japan where the author had worked as psychological adviser to an advertising company in Tokyo from 1921 to 1925. During that time she took private lessons from a well-known teacher once or twice a week. She firmly believed that the tea-ceremony is a genuine expression of basic traits of Japanese culture and that the stepping-stones to a tea-hut lead us straight into deeper layers ot the Japanese mind. As a psychologist, however, who did her Ph.D. under the guidance of Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig in 1913 with an empirical study of subjective/objective patterns of cognitive processes, she does not indulge in "japonistic" projections of "otherness" but describes in great detail, and richly illustrated with drawings and photos from her own collection as well, (a) the elaborate prerequisites necessary for the tea-cult, and (b) its different seasonal patterns and rules of appropriate behaviour that minutely prescribe each and every movement of host and guests. Finally (c) the inner meaning of the tea-cult and its systematic elaboration over centuries is derived from Japanese sources. It is a sad fact that due to the author's Jewish origin this path-breaking study did not receive the attention it deserved at the time of publication nor thereafter, neither in Germany nor abroad. Together with her husband Siegfried Berliner (1884-1961) Anna Berliner migrated to the USA in 1938 where she died in 1977 after a career as Professor of Psychology at the Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon from 1948 until 1968.