Tea performing arts, tea terminology and translation, promote tea studies and innovations. *Contact ,icetea8@gmail.com, Trad. and Simp. Chinese used. Blog since 6/23/2005
Name: Steven R. Jones; Link: http://teaarts.blogspot.com/
名字:瓊斯史迪芬Steven R. Jones, 網址: http://teaarts.blogspot.com/


Beginning Study of Incense Lore 我開始學香道

Beginning Study of
Incense Lore, ( 香道 ),
Steven R. Jones, Jan. 16, 2006, Taipei
(revision Feb. 15, 2006)
一﹒ 我與香氣的接觸之始。
二﹒ 天主教徒,佛教徒,道教徒都使用香對神的敬意都是一樣好。
三﹒ 香的精神領域。
四﹒ 聞香的方法。
五﹒ 聞香的歷史。
六﹒ 沈香的家屬。
七﹒ 辨識沈香的優劣。
八﹒ 沈香的香氣。
九﹒ 結論。
The Chinese term ( 香道 ), means “Incense Lore” which includes The Incense: Arts, Culture, History, and Ceremonies. Incense Lore can be compared to and has some of the same qualities as music, art, or literature. As I study about Incense Lore, I also see that Incense is an intricate part of Tea Lore, just like Calligraphy, Floral Arrangement, and Scroll Arrangement. These are five Classical Chinese Arts. Incense Lore involves natural incense woods ( 香木 ), and not artificial substitutes.
When I first used incense, I was about fifteen or sixteen years old in America and we used them for making the room smell good or to set a relaxing mood. I had also heard of some people using incense for meditation or to induce a mystical setting when fortune telling. The incense I first bought was in a pretty enchanted colored box with a fairy on the front with fantasy and mystical images. I also bought a small brass incense burner, (香爐 ). The incense pieces were cones shape and black in color and even without lighting them the scent was strong and when I lit them they were strong smelling like smoky flowers and herbs. At the time I had no idea of Incense Lore, I only knew that my incense was from a far away place, like maybe India or somewhere.
Many years later I moved to Taiwan; and I seen incense again. But this time the incense was symbolic, and used for cultural or religious ceremonies and holidays like Chinese New Year or as an offering to gods and family ancestors. Later when I got married my Taiwanese mother-in-law showed me how to use incense in the home for showing respect and giving offerings for our family ancestors. Also my wife and I would go to temples on holidays and light incense; they looked like coiled springs and straight sticks. I learned how to hold them and then place them to the incense burner in front of an altar. The incense “Aloes” is mentioned in the “Holy Bible”, and it refers to an incense wood called, “Aloes-Wood”. Coming from a Catholic background, we light candles and also have incense. Thuribles are covered incense burners suspended by chain and are swung so they can spread the incense. Thuribles are still used in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Incense is used in Christian churches for it is thought to have purifying properties. The burning of incense can represent the people’s prayers rising towards Heaven. Incense is also used in Buddhist and Taoist Temples. Being in Taiwan surrounded with Buddhism and Taoism, which are philosophical ways of living as opposed to being just Religion, and myself being a liberal Catholic, I did not have much trouble adjusting to Taiwanese Philosophy, Religion, and Culture. When I would light and offer incense to the Buddhist or Taoist Temples, I would use this time to pray and wish that my family would remain healthy and safe and I would thank God and Jesus Christ for all that I had received and to try to be a better man by loving and helping my family and fellow man. I still go to Catholic Church, and I also go to the Temples and have met some volunteer groups there and have helped them many times in giving care to the less fortunate. I have gotten much satisfaction my helping the needy.
A few years later I was introduced to Incense again at “Lu-Yu Tea Culture Institute” ( 陸羽茶藝中心 ), in Taipei, which held classes and sold tea. I went there often to buy tea and tea ware and one day I noticed they also had a back room where they sold incenses and Incense Ware, ( 香具 ). They had different incense burners made of ceramic, some were very simple, and some were large and beautiful, yet they were much smaller than the ones I had seen in the temples. And they had such a variety of incenses. The incense was in small tin boxes and when the saleslady opened the box, I was surprised because it was a powder, and not a cone, stick, or coil. Later I found out that they did have incense sticks and incense coils too, which were small and delicate. They all had very subtle scents and I bought some and a ceramic incense burner and some incense ware. The incense burner was made out of the same material as my stoneware teapots. My wife would light some incense using either the stick or coil type. Later I started to use the powder incense; which I would first place a bed of very clean white ash in an incense burner. Then I would use a brass “Incense Seal” ( 香印 ), each Incense Seal has a different pattern in the outline shape of a Chinese word, picture, or other design. Next, I would carefully place the incense seal on top of the ash, and lightly pack the incense into the incense seal with a small bamboo spoon and brush. The incense seals are used with powder incenses to create Incense Trails. And lastly, I would carefully lift the incense seal and then light one end of the incense trail and let it burn slowly like a wondering dragon. In the past, these incense trails have been used to keep track of time.
As time past, my wife had been studying Tea Lore, and I would ask her about her classes and listen with much interest. I also started to take some classes about tea and incense. As I became more interested in incense and I started to read about incense and I was surprised to find out when my Incense Lore Master Instructor said that incense did not originate in Japan. Even though it is very popular in Japan, Incense Lore has its roots in China. The first recorded use of incense in China was dated during the Chou Dynasty (1122-249 B.C.).
In the Family: N. O. Thymeliaceae, Genus: Aquilaria, there are several species in the incense wood creating trees of the evergreen genus Aquilaria and is native to many countries. It is rare but these trees can begin to produce an aromatic resin. The resin is produced as an immune response and can form from an injury, cut, or a parasitic fungus or mold infection, on any woody area of a living tree, including the roots. The result of this process is an aromatic resin-impregnated wood called “Aloes-Wood”. Aloes-Wood is a kind of Incense Wood. There are many Aquilaria trees but it is extremely rare for them to have incense; because they can’t produce rich and dark incense resin. Since ancient times this is the preferred oleoresin used in making fine incense, mixed incense, and incense oils.
Some of the Species of, Family N.O. Thymeliaceae, Genus Aquilaria, that produce Aloes-Wood and their most common Countries of origin:
Aquilaria Agallocha: India, Burma, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Aquilaria Aphispermum: Hainan Island, China.
Aquilaria Baillonii: Cambodia.
Aquilaria Bancana: Malaysia.
Aquilaria Crassna: Cambodia, and Vietnam. A local name for this Aloes-Wood is, “Eagle Wood”.
Aquilaria Grandiflorn: Southern China.
Aquilaria Yunnanensis S.C. Huang: Yunnan, China.
Aquilaria Khasiana: India.
Aquilaria Malaccensis: Malaysia, Indonesia, Kalimantan, and Singapore.
Aquilaria Microcarpa: Borneo
Aquilaria Moszkowskii: Indonesia
Aquilaria Pentandura: Philippines
Aquilaria Secundaria: Moluccas Islands
There are many historical facts about Aloes-Wood being buried under the ground for up to 2000 years. This evidence is written in a classic Chinese book on incense; but today most Aloes-Wood comes from infected trees that, although are in the process of decaying or even dying, are indeed still standing. Sometimes the roots become infected and produce incense oleoresin and these can be found underground. Aloes-Wood naturally has an oleoresin content, when high quality Aloes-Wood is impregnated with enough oleoresin to cause it to sink in water the Chinese term for this Aloes-Wood is ( 沉水香 ); which literally translates as “water sinking incense”, usually this is a high quality incense. In the past if an Aloes-Wood sank it was considered higher quality than if it did not sink. But the ultimate test for the degree of quality is to sniff and experience its Scents. Grading of Aloes-Wood is based on various characteristics including: oleoresin content, color, shape, and weight of the wood pieces. Aloes-Wood is a naturally scented resinous wood and is very rare and can take centuries to acquire its unique scents. Practitioners of an Incense Ceremony will gather in a room, and the incense is shared and passed around and is the center topic of the ceremony. The incense becomes a bridge for people to communicate and interact with each other. In the Incense Ceremony, pure Incense Charcoal is used without any impurities. Incense charcoal lights easily and burns cleanly and is odorless. It is used for heating the incense without burning the incense or adding any odors. A small incense burner called a “censer” ( 香爐 ), is used for sniffing the incense. The charcoal is placed on a bed of clean ash in the censer and covered with some ash by gently lifting the ash surrounding the charcoal and piling it in a mound, and then a small hole is made on the top of the mound to allow heat to escape and a thin stoneware chip with the incense placed on top. Other materials can be used for the incense-heating chip like ceramic, mica, or silver. In an Incense Ceremony participants don't just sniff the incense, but rather think and experience incense. The practitioners strive to open their hearts and minds and try to understand the true spirit of incense.
In Chinese ( 聞 香 ), “sniff incense” is an important part of the ceremonial appreciation of incense. There are many words to describe the complex scents given off by Aloes-Wood. Scents like caramel, milky, fresh, different kinds of flowers, different kinds of fruits, and etc. Sometimes the Scents of the Incense can remind one, of a past experience or memory. Listed below are just a few but standard words used for describing Aloes-Wood.
Five terms used to classify aloes-wood rich Scents:
Sweet--- like the scent of honey or sugar
Sour--- like the scent of plums or other acidic foods.
Hot (Spicy)--- like the scent of peppers.
Salty--- like the scent of ocean water with dried seaweed.
Bitter--- like the scent of bitter herbal medicine when boiled.
To be able to define a given scent into these different elements takes years of experience and also one must develop a refined sense of smell.

Looking back on my life with incense and remembering at first burning the cone-shape incense as an adolescent. And then later in Taiwan at home or in the temples using stick or coil incenses, not for the scents but for symbolic offerings and prayers. And then going to a Tea and Incense Shop and buying some mixed incense, “small stick and small coil”, with subtle scents and nuances. And then started to use power incense and make incense trails. And now I am studying Incense Lore from an Incense Lore Master Instructor, “Lin, Rai-Hsian” ( 林瑞萱 ), after beginning the class I have really started to appreciate incense. But it was not until I experienced an actual Incense Ceremony with our instructor, that I started to understand “The Spirit of Incense”. We use various kinds of Aloes-Wood, and the scents are wonderful and natural and very hard to describe, without actually having the chance to personally experience the incense. After lecture we will go to the Incense Room to have an Incense Ceremony. We will sit around a table and all the students and our Incense Master Instructor will first take out some small little boxes and bottles with different Aloes-Woods and she will explain what kinds of incenses we will use today. Then carefully one of the students or the instructor will prepare the censer and we will sniff and experience the incense and discuss and describe the scents and differences of each one. We usually will pass the censer around twice and the scents from the first pass and the second pass will usually be different. We learn and share our descriptions of the incense’s scents; sometimes it will bring us back in time to another place where we have experienced this scent before. Some times the Instructor will have us discuss among ourselves and we will laugh at each other as we try to describe in our own words what the incense smells like, our Instructor will remind us we are still learning and try to sniff and think deeply as we experience the incense. I am very grateful to my Incense Lore Master; it is not easy but I am very happy to take this time and learn about Incense Lore.
* * *

* Tea Culture: writer, translator, lecturer, and tea arts performer.
* Tea Arts, Blogger, (http://teaarts.blogspot.com/)
* Translating into English (無我茶會) "Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony" and about the many facets of Tea Culture.
* A writer for "Tea Culture Monthly"
Lu-Yu Tea Culture Institute, Progress Report
* International Wu-Wo Tea Association, Member, Photographer
* Tea Arts and Culture and Incense Lore Scholar
* American English Instructor
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