The incense culture in the Japanese archipelago dates back almost one and a half millennia in terms of its development since the discovery of the agarwood bar in 595 off the coast of Awaji Island. In a relatively short period of time, aromatic wood has gone from an exotic phenomenon of mainland culture into becoming one of Japan's most important items of trade and economic relations with the countries of East Asia. The value of karamono ("things from China") goods, which, among other things, included incense and tools for its burning, can hardly be overestimated: these were not merely "luxury goods" accessible to the privileged social classes, but rather full-fledged vehicles of continental culture influence. Aromatic wood was used in medicine, religious practices, and in everyday life. Over time, under the influence of Buddhism and the principles of aristocratic and samurai ideology, the use of incense turned not only into a traditional art, but also into a symbol of the national culture of Japan. Based on the analysis of written and artistic Japanese sources, as well as field studies, this article explores the classification of aromatic wood species of the agarwood tree (aquilaria), which played a key role in Japanese culture in the Middle Ages and the Modern Period. These classifications are still being used in assessing the quality of wood and wood products. Medieval Japanese masters invented ways of encoding aromas of fragrant wood through the characteristics of tastes and the place of growth of aromatic trees, as well as through the figurative, symbolic, and metaphorical meaning of each name.
|Translated title of the contribution||Agarwood as a phenomenon of the incense culture of Japan: classifications and functions|
|Number of pages||25|
|Publication status||Published - 2020|
- 5.07.BM AREA STUDIES
- 5.04 SOCIOLOGY
State classification of scientific and technological information
- 03.61 Ethnography and historical anthropology