The third generation Muromachi shogun Yoshimitsu and the eighth generation Yoshimasa were collectors of Chinese utensils (karamono) and this custom spread gradually to the daimyo and the wealthy merchants of every region. The pioneer period of drinking matcha (powdered green tea) began in the Kamakura period and continued through the Muromachi and Azuchi Momoyama periods, during which the Way of Tea (Sado) took shape. Today there are famous utensils ('meibutsu') which have been distributed and preserved among tea devotees of all classes of society as utensils that have been handed down (denrai dogu). They have a rich lineage and a long history. Among these there are many meibutsu (famous utensils) of Rikyu's time.
At the beginning of the Edo period, Kobori Enshu took names from poems (uta) among the classics of Japanese literature to give to tea containers and tea bowls made in Japan. The utensils given these names (utamei) are now called 'chuko-meibutsu'.
After the time of Rikyu, when the Sen family was divided into three branches, the family carefully maintained the character of chanoyu as that of the common people and the merchants. This way of tea was called 'Senke-ryu' or 'Rikyu-ryu', and preserved the way of tea of the citizens of feudal times. The standard and model for wabi-cha (tea of quiet taste) utensils has been well preserved in utensils connected with Rikyu and konomi (preferred tea utensils) by the successive Iemotos.
Now let us touch on what are called 'Senke meibutsu' ('famous utensils of the Sen family'). By the middle of the Edo period the world of chanoyu had spread to many areas, and dealers in tea devotees' utensils (suki dogu) made in China, Korea and Japan were active in Kyoto, Osaka and Edo. The term 'Senke meibutsu' came to be used among the gentleman dealers in such utensils from the middle of the Edo period. The utensils handed down in the three Sen families which supported the Rikyu way of tea or the Senke way of tea were already highly valued, as can be seen in the name 'Senke meibutsu'.