Oudh In Incense
Over the last few years with online shopping becoming famous and common across most of the world, accessibility to oudh and oudh related products have also increased. From this development the outside world has now been given a window into the cultures that actively utilise oudh in their day to day lives. This access has allowed a wider audience to benefit from the incense practices of the Arab, Japanese and Chinese cultures, not negating the existence incense in other cultures, rather these three traditions are more actively pursued for this purpose.
Across the different Chinese dynasties noblemen, monks and people of the high class were encouraged to engage in incense, painting, tea classification and flower arrangement, these were known as the 4 basic gentle arts.
In the Sung dynasty incense burning was regarded as highly as painting and recitation of poetry. It was studied in the garden or quiet rooms. Guests were encouraged to study the composition of the incense and the shapes of the smoke and the duration of the lingering fragrance. After the appreciation, scholars would express the evaluation in poetry to those present.
Whilst some of these arts are not followed as closely as in the past, nevertheless the existence of them in Chinese culture makes rekindling these arts more easier. Today due to the accessibility of incense and oudh we are seeing a rebirth of interest in oudh across China. Apart from the incense value, today oudh is also being viewed as an item of prestige among Chinese elite.
The Tibetan Masters on the other tend to make incense for the temple, or at least the temples are their first clients, they don’t see it as a symbol stature. It still remains a spiritual journey for many.
In our Islamic tradition scent is spiritual, it is following the footsteps of the Prophet Peace be Upon him, and presenting oneself in the cleanest, most beautified presentation spiritually and physically in front of the Creator for Worship. It was in this aspect of our tradition that I found inspiration to pursue the incense stick olfactory expression.
Burning fragrant material was the first form of perfumery expression and experience, ‘The penetrating smoke’ as it is known in Latin, is indeed a perfect description for what perfume is. The role of oudh in that expression is as old as man. In an Islamic tradition it is narrated that when Adam came to Earth his body was covered with the leaves and branches of the Oudh tree, and so from it began the spread of Oudh. Every major civilisation since has had some form of association with this amazing tree from heaven.