Home / Travel / Travelogue Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read | Comment
Watching incense being made was heaven scent
Adjust font size:

Burning incense is one of the most common scenes on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. By chance, I witnessed the legendary perfume being made.

Not far from Samye Monastery, 1,000-year-old Mindroling Monastery is known for making traditional Tibetan incense that contains more than 20 kinds of spices, medicinal herbs, gold, silver and rare minerals.

Tenzin, the lama in charge of making incense in the temple, ushered me into a northern chamber of the monastery where several villagers were grinding herbs like saffron, Chinese licorice and Dolichousnea longissima, a kind of lichen. Monks used to do all the work but recently more villagers have become willing helpers.

Tenzin said it had also become hard to get quality spices and he had to shop around between many suppliers to get the best raw materials to ensure high-quality incense.

Several days later, all the materials were ground and ready for the next step: stewing. Villagers poured the powder and water into a huge copper pot that was carved with scriptures.

After a whole day's stewing, the concoction turned crimson. Villagers filtered the juice with gauze, then mixed it with the powder of sandalwood and other materials. Men and women sat in a circle on the floor of an empty hall, mixing the hot stuff with bare hands. The hall was filled with the pleasant, refreshing fragrance.

The finely mixed powder was left in a room to dry for two days. It was covered in two layers of heavy cotton quilt and the room was tightly sealed to protect it from the sun.

When I came back on the third day, I found the monastery crowded with locals watching lamas staging a religious dance. When it was over, people took the lotion-like material out of the room and put it into yak horns with a tiny hole at the end.

The lotion was thrust through the hole to make a thin line on the floor. It was dried and cut into strips, and finally, the Tibetan incense was finished.

Back in Tenzin's dormitory, he lit an incense of the finest quality for me. Just a few hours ago, the monastery had been full of excitement. The curling smoke and enjoyable scent soon transported me into a world of peace and tranquility.

Most people say Tibetan incense can prevent and cure physical illnesses. I believe it can also nourish one's soul.

(China Daily by Xiao Dong February 1, 2009)

Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read
Pet Name
China Archives
Related >>
- Mount Jiuhua -- 'Land of Buddhas and Incense'
- Exposure to burning incense leads to respiratory tract cancer