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  • Gordon Dumoulin

"one tael of agarwood equals to a tael of gold"


"๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ข๐˜จ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ธ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฒ๐˜ถ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ข ๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜จ๐˜ฐ๐˜ญ๐˜ฅ"

'tael' ไธค is an old Chinese weight measure with various weights in different regions in ancient times,

standardized to 50 grams in 1959.

๐—”๐—ด๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐˜„๐—ผ๐—ผ๐—ฑ 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 ๆฒ‰้ฆ™ (Chรฉn Xiฤng), agarwood is not simply a timber but naturally forms when the trees are โ€˜infectedโ€™ 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 ใ€Šๅ—ๆ–น่‰ๆœจ็Šถใ€‹,

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.

้ฆ™ๅๅพท โ€Fragrant Ten Virtuesโ€ is probably the most renowned Chinese poem attributing to agarwood by ้ป„ๅบญๅš Huang Tingjian (1045โ€“1105), a famous Chinese poet, calligrapher and painter during the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127).



้ป„ๅบญๅš Huang Tingjian (1045โ€“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.

1. ๆ„Ÿๆ ผ้ฌผ็ฅž

Incense burning sharpens the senses and opens the mind to divinity.

2. ๆธ…ๆทจๅฟƒ่บซ

Incense burning cleans the mind.

3. ่ƒฝ้™คๆฑš็ฉข

Incense burning divests the mind of worldly impurities.

4. ่ƒฝ่ฆบ็ก็œ 

Incense burning wakes up the mind.

5. ้™ไธญๆˆๅ‹

Incense burning brings a sense of peace and tranquility.

6. ๅกต่ฃๅธ้–‘

Incense burning soothes the mind when it is busy.

7. ๅคš่€ŒไธๅŽญ

One cannot burn too much incense.

8. ๅฏก่€Œ็‚บ่ถณ

A little incense is enough.

9. ไน…่”ตไธๆœฝ

Time has nothing to do with the efficacy of incense.

10. ๅธธ็”จ็„ก้šœ

Habitual use of incense causes no harm.

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#china #chineseculture #chinesehistory #chinesesociety #traditionalchinesemedicine #tcm

Sources

Short film : chinainsider IG

Picture 1 : http://www.chineseculturalstudiescenter.org/huifuping-interview-1.html

Picture 2 : http://www.silkqin.com/09hist/other/huangtingjian.htm


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