Is Chawan a tea bowl or a rice bowl? What is Gohan Jyawan & Meshiwan?
If you search for “Chawan” on Amazon.com, you will find tea bowls. However, if you look for “Chawan” on the Japanese Amazon, you will find rice bowls.
In my personal opinion, when I hear the word “Chawan”, a rice bowl comes to mind. What exactly is a “Chawan”? Is the translation wrong? It’s a small question, but let’s quickly learn about it.
What is the definition of a “Chawan (茶碗)”?
A “Chawan” is literally a bowl for drinking tea. 茶 (Cha) means tea, and 椀 (Wan) means a bowl. A tea bowl refers to “Chawan”. But nowadays a rice bowl is also called a “Chawan”.
Why Japanese call the rice bowl “Chawan”?
“Chawan” was introduced from China during the Nara and Heian periods (A.D. 710-1192). Initially, they were introduced as bowls used for drinking tea, but the expensive ones were also used for ornamental purposes.
In the past, rice was served in wooden lacquerware. In the Edo period (1603-1867), ceramics, which had been a luxury item, became affordable to the general public, and “Chawan” came to be referred to as a generic term for ceramics. To distinguish, the one used for matcha tea was called “Matcha-Jyawan” and the one used as a rice bowl was called “Gohan Jyawan”. The Rice bowl was then abbreviated and came to be called “Chawan”.
Other ways to say rice bowl
Adding “o” to the “Chawan” and calling it an “Ochawan (お茶碗)” sounds elegant. Women often use this saying. It is also sometimes called a “Gohan Jyawan (ご飯茶碗)” or a “Meshi Wan (飯椀)” to distinguish it from a tea bowl.
I am a woman and I personally call it “Ochawan”. My husband calls it “Chawan”.
They have different shapes and sizes
We learned that a “Chawan” has two meanings: a tea bowl and a rice bowl. Let’s compare them in the images.
The image below is tea bowls.
The image below is rice bowls.
Can you tell the differences? Both bowls have a rounded shape with gentle curves on the sides. There is no clear difference in words and shapes, but they have different sizes.
The standard size of a tea bowl is usually 9 cm (3.5 inches) in diameter.
The standard size of a rice bowl is different for men and women. The most common sizes are 12 cm (4.7 inches) in diameter, 11.5 cm (4.5 inches) in diameter, and 11 cm (4.3 inches) in diameter. For men, the standard size would be 12 cm, and for women, 11 cm.
So, a tea bowl is smaller than a rice bowl.
The tea bowls introduced above are for sencha green tea, but there are also tea bowls for matcha green tea. The shape of this bowl is completely different from that of the rice bowl.
A Matcha tea bowl is usually thick and has a cylindrical shape. Matcha tea bowls tend to be larger than sencha green tea bowls, about 11-12 cm (4.3-4.7 inches) in diameter.
How do you distinguish?
The word “Chawan” has no clear difference between the term tea bowl or rice bowl. But at the beginning of this article, I said that if you type in the word “Chawan” on the Japanese Amazon, you will see rice bowls. So how do you find tea bowls?
Here are some Japanese words you can distinguish.