5. June 2017

Incense Lore

Incense Lore 香道 [xiāng dào]  is a Chinese traditional art with a long history,  through seeing, touching and  smelling to full-heart appreciate precious spices by using slightly performing procedures. Adhering to pleasant and ritual orders is important, so that we could respect and admire ancient sages, feel today, enjoy  friendship, cherish life and  melt yourselves in the wonderful and quiet nature.

During the Dragon Boat Festival, the Han folk has the custom of hanging sachets and wearing  Chinese mugwort. Incenses had been used in many ways of ancient times, such as medicines, religious sacrificial and festival celebrations, clothes, banquets, examination halls and   architectures.

People in the Spring-autumn and Warring States Period started to use incenses and many spices were widely used in daily life in the pre Qin period. From the scholars to ordinary people, they all had the habit of wearing sachets and aromatic herbs. Before the Han Dynasty, incenses in baths and etiquette were common,  in the Han, Wei and Six Dynasties, Daoism theory were popular, so  the incense culture of Boshan style were widely adopted. In the Sui and Tang Dynasty and Five Dynasties, incenses  became to be trend, because of the integration of the East and West, more methods of various forms  were introduced and developed.

The Song Dynasty was a peak of the incense development, using incenses  became an indispensable part of pursuiting a good life for ordinary people. Incenses could be seen everywhere, “incense shops 香铺” and “incense selling people 香人” on streets, there were specialized produced “printing incense 印香” businesses, and even in restaurants incenses were always available to customers from  “incense selling women香婆”.

In the Song and Yuan Dynasties, appreciating incense, drinking tea,  arranging flowers and enjoying paintings were considered as “four elegant activties”  in  the upper society. Due to the scholars‘ pursuit of a  material and spiritual life, they strived hard to advocate and promote from the spiritual level, the  Chinese traditional culture of  zither, chess, calligraphy and painting, as well as food, wine, tea, etc. have been completed the foundations, which show a erudite and forceful state. Thus, incense became an art, high officials, noble lords,   literatus and scholars gathered often to taste incenses and establish the primary ceremony. The source, utensil, tool and method of making incense are written in books and  recipes at this time.

In the Ming Dynasty, incenses and Confucianism, Buddhist were combined together as “坐香 [zuò xiāng]” and “课香 [kè xiāng]”, which became an assignment of forest meditation 丛林禅修 and inquesting knowledge 勘验学问. More and more Buddhism and literatus built up and ran incense rooms and  silence rooms, collected Xuande incense burners.

Qing Dynasty 弘历鉴古图

In the period of  Qing Dynasty‘s prosperity, burning incenses went more in-depth a daily life, a set of three pieces (censer, incense bottle and pomander) on a writting desk in a study, incense table  and incensepoy became a typical room layout at that time.