"one tael of agarwood equals to a tael of gold"
"𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘵𝘢𝘦𝘭 𝘰𝘧 𝘢𝘨𝘢𝘳𝘸𝘰𝘰𝘥 𝘦𝘲𝘶𝘢𝘭𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘢 𝘵𝘢𝘦𝘭 𝘰𝘧 𝘨𝘰𝘭𝘥"
'tael' 两 is an old Chinese weight measure with various weights in different regions in ancient times,
standardized to 50 grams in 1959.
𝗔𝗴𝗮𝗿𝘄𝗼𝗼𝗱 is the highly resinous wood of Aquilaria sinensis, Aquilaria agallocha or other related Aquilaria species, grown in China and other Asian countries. Known in China as 沉香 (Chén Xiāng), agarwood is not simply a timber but naturally forms when the trees are ‘infected’ with a typical parasitic mold called Menanotus flavolives. The tree then produces a resin impregnating inside the heartwood to protect itself from the mold, becoming agarwood. Actually it is 'rotten or fermented wood'.
Agarwood has been used in culture, art, religion and medicine since ancient times in China. As a highly prized value, rich nobles and Buddhists used agarwood as incense, seasoning wine or directly carved it as decorations. Along with sandalwood, ambergris and musk (Chen Tan Long She), it is considered the 4 most precious and rare spices and incenses.
Illustration from Nanjing Caomu Zhuang 《南方草木状》,
showing the different parts of the Aquilaria plant that agarwood comes from.1
Lesser known is the historical use of agarwood as precious traditional Chinese medicine as powder or herbal tea with the efficacy of promoting qi circulation and relieving pain, controlling nausea and vomiting, stimulating inspiration and relieving asthma.
香十德 ”Fragrant Ten Virtues” is probably the most renowned Chinese poem attributing to agarwood by 黄庭坚 Huang Tingjian (1045–1105), a famous Chinese poet, calligrapher and painter during the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127).
黄庭坚 Huang Tingjian (1045–1105)2
The poem expresses the benefits of incense in a straightforward and elegant manner, a poem seemingly later popularized by Japanese Zen Buddhist monk and poet Ikkyu Sojun (1394-1481) in Japan.
Incense burning sharpens the senses and opens the mind to divinity.
Incense burning cleans the mind.
Incense burning divests the mind of worldly impurities.
Incense burning wakes up the mind.
Incense burning brings a sense of peace and tranquility.
Incense burning soothes the mind when it is busy.
One cannot burn too much incense.
A little incense is enough.
Time has nothing to do with the efficacy of incense.
Habitual use of incense causes no harm.
Short film : chinainsider IG