As a special event of Chang’an Elegant Gathering, “A Living Heritage of China: The Use of Incense for Sacrificial Rituals, Health Maintenance and Self-cultivation: Sharing on Chinese Incense Culture” was held at Beijing Overseas Cultural Exchanges Base on December 1st. .The event was broadcast through CCTV, china.org.cn and BRTV. The event was jointly planned by Beijing Overseas Cultural Exchanges Center and Liu Jia, Director-in-Chief of the Documentary “Tea in China”. During the event, Sun Liang, Representative Inheritor of Beijing Municipal Intangible Cultural Heritage “Incense-making” of Shijingshan District, introduced the origin and history of Chinese incense culture, the Four Famous Incenses and the important role of incense in ancient Chinese life, which gave the audience a deeper understanding of the charm of ancient Chinese incense culture and the profound wisdom in Chinese people’s life aesthetics.
四大名香 历史悠久 浓缩华夏文明
The Four Famous Incenses as a miniature of Chinese civilization
As the Representative Inheritor of Beijing Municipal Intangible Cultural Heritage “Incense-making”, Mr. Sun Liang explained in simple terms the unique forms and long history of Chinese incense culture. Each of the Four Famous Incenses that represent China’s incense lore, namely, Eaglewood, Sandalwood, Ambergris and Musk, has its own characteristics and rich connotations.
Mr. Sun Liang, Representative Inheritor of Beijing Municipal Intangible Cultural Heritage “Incense-making” of Shijingshan District, shares about the Four Famous Incenses
During the event, Mr. Sun Liang also demonstrated Boshan Furnace, and the Portable Furnace and Maki-e Box replicated by Famen Temple, and cited classics and ancient works to explain their usages and engraved patterns, so that the audience could understand the history behind the Four Famous Incenses. Incense smelling during the event was a particularly pleasant experience. In a fragrant atmosphere created by the incense, the participants were able to relax themselves and appreciate the beauty of life.
Left:Boshan Furnace; Right:Maki-e Box
中国文化 漂洋过海 影响深远
Chinese culture establishing far-reaching influence beyond China
Raw materials used to make sandalwood incense
A tablet carved with sandalwoo
Lauded for his achievements in literature among Chinese people, Huang Tingjian is little known for his achievements and influence in the field of incense culture. As the Chinese “Sage of Incense”, he has high attainments in the field of incense, with his thoughts on incense lore having a direct impact on the Japanese “Ten Virtues of Incense”. In the realm of incense lore, Huang Tingjian’s verse “A few sticks of incense sticks burnt, a soul restless with anxiety appeased” is often used to highlight the good that incense can do. (The verse was taken from a poem that Huang Tingjian wrote for Jia Tianxi in the first year of Emperor Yuanyou (1086))
It can communicate with supernatural beings, and purify body and soul;
It can be used to clear away filth, and is conducive to sleep;
It offers good company in solitude, and moments of delight in a busy life;
One can never get too much of it, while the tiniest amount does its job;
It does not perish when stored for a long time, and can be used regularly from day to day.
——Ten Virtues of Incense
“Smelling Flowers” by Huang Tingjian
Deputy Director of Beijing Overseas Cultural Exchanges Center Wang Hairu communicated with guests during the event
Deputy Director of Beijing Overseas Cultural Exchanges Center Liu Weizhi communicated with guests during the event
Guests appreciating incense
香气之美 袅袅升起 尽显明德惟馨
Rising aroma speaks volume about the beauty and virtues of incense
With pleasant aroma, incense offers a range of physical and psychological benefits. With a focus on the rituals and essence of incense lore as deeply embedded in the day-to-day life aesthetics of Chinese literati, this event explores the profound influence of incense in different aspects of Chinese culture. It foregrounds the role of incense in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and more symbolically, the virtues it represents. Traditionally, before the “Start of Winter”, a solar term in Chinese lunar calendar, the ancients would receive visitors and burn incense with a stove. The rationale behind adopting incense as a symbol for virtues lies in people’s hope that good deeds would impress people and endure through the ages, just like incense when burnt.
As a signature project of Beijing Overseas Cultural Exchanges Center, “Chang’an Elegant Gathering” has kept exploring a new mode of “immersive experience of Chinese literati’s life aesthetics”. This event of Chang’an Elegant Gathering aims to share the beauty of ancient and contemporary Chinese culture with a focus on incense lore, so that the guests, while delighted by incense, will be able to appreciate the long-lasting virtues it represents. The event represents an effort to further explore Chinese cultural traditions, and the original culture of Beijing in particular. Leveraging the strength of Beijing Overseas Cultural Exchanges Center in international exchanges, it strives to create a whole new cultural experience by integrating online and onsite elements in a hybrid fashion.