Incense

The Plum Blossom soon became one of the primary symbols for incense in Japan. From Chinese literature it is know as "The Flower of Peace" until this day in Japan. Lady Murasaki used this symbolism in the "Plum Branch Chapter" and nicely brought together the images and contrast presented in a background of incense contests and perfume creation. Perfume was incense to the people of the Heian era. Sleeves especially were scented overnight by the smoke of exotic kneaded incense, many of which were ancient formulas of Chinese culture.

Baika, which means plum is one of the most famous Japanese incense formulas. Kneaded with aloeswood and other materials, including Lotus honey or Plum meat, it was buried under the eave's of homes for several years in clay pots to mature.

In the Genji tale, the contests were judged on the creation and art of incense making, but sometime after the Heian period the attention focused on games of identification. It was during this period, "The Game of Ten" originated. Lafcadio Hearn writes about both kneaded incense, and this game in his book "In Ghostly Japan." For over 100 years this work has stood as the best English work on Japanese incense.

 

Next page

Table of Contents

Beginning