The strength of the fragrance for one and a half thousand years: Agarwood in the Japanese art of incense

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

This article gives a brief overview of the genesis of the development of incense culture in Japan through the determining function of aromatic wood in Buddhism, as well as the significance of Japanese classifications of agarwood (aquilaria) species which were developed in the 16th – 17th centuries. Japanese masters invented ways of coding fragrances of aromatic wood through their characteristics of tastes and place of growth, as well as using metaphorical and figurative-symbolic meaning of each name. These techniques played a key role in the history of the traditional art of koudou (‘way of fragrance’) and in the development of female education during the Edo period (1603–1867). Based on the analysis of written sources and museum collections, two classifications were studied, which are still used in Japan when assessing the quality of aromatic wood and wood products: a list of ‘61 kinds of aromatic wood’, developed using associations of odours with significant phenomena in Japanese society as its foundation – calendar holidays, religious concepts, political and literary characters, as well as the system of ‘Six Countries – Five Flavours’, which was based on geographical factors and the principle of reliance on taste and olfactory receptors.

Translated title of the contributionСила аромата в полторы тысячи лет? агаровая древесина в японском искусстве благовоний
Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Pages (from-to)117-129
Number of pages13
JournalVestnik Novosibirskogo Gosudarstvennogo Universiteta, Seriya: Istoriya, Filologiya
Volume19
Issue number10: История и филология
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Keywords

  • Agarwood
  • Aquilaria
  • Awaji island
  • Buddhism
  • Classification of aromatic wood
  • Japan
  • Koudou incense art (“the way of fragrance”)

OECD FOS+WOS

  • 6.01 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY
  • 6.02 LANGUAGES AND LITERATURE

State classification of scientific and technological information

  • 03 STORY. HISTORICAL SCIENCE

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