HISTORY OF ASIAN PERFUMERY ARTS
- Appreciation of the fragrant landscape presumably since the beginning of Asian civilization and throughout Asia.
- Provable origins of a ‚handicraft‘ over 2–3,000 years ago.
- Specialization of a perfumery art – i.e. skills of conserving and refining the aromatics as well as as appreciating them reverently – over the course of the centuries at exclusive locations.
- Intracontinental transmission of materials, techniques and meanings via land and sea routes over the course of time – with the effect of exchange and mutual inspiration.
- Notable entanglement with Western business activities since the 16th century.
FAMOUS REPRESENTATIVES OF ASIA’S ENDEMIC AROMATIC RESOURCES
Agarwood – ambergris – basil – benzoin – birch – cajeput – camellia – camphor – cardamom – cassia – cedar – cinnamon – civet – cloves – conifer – coriander – cypress – elemi – eucalyptus – fenugreek – fir – frangipani – frankincense – galbanum – gallnuts – ginger – jasmine – kanuka – lemongrass – lily – litsea – magnolia – maple – musk – myrrh – neroli – nutmeg – osmanthus – palmarosa – patchouli – pepper – pine – rhododendron – rosemary – roses – saffron – sandalwood – shell hinges – spikenard – spruce – star anise – storax – tea tree – tuberose – tulsi – vetiver – yarrow – ylang-ylang.
PARTS OF PLANTS THAT HOST AROMATIC MOLECULES
Balm – bark – blossom – fruit (peel) – grass – leaves – lichen – needle – resin – root – seeds – wood.
EFFORTS TO PRODUCE DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF AROMATIC GOODS
(1) RAW MATERIALS
(2) REFINED (PURE) GOODS
(3) REFINED MIXED PRODUCTS
TYPICAL (NATURAL AND MAN-MADE) AROMATIC PRODUCTS
- the natural surrounding as such
- aromatic wood artefacts
- fresh (parts of) plants (flowers, herbs, and other)
- dried (parts of) plants (flowers, herbs and other)
- incense cake (as balls, cookies, soft sticks)
- incense sticks (including a wood stick)
SKILLS OF MAKING AROMATICS GIVE OFF THEIR FRAGRANCE
SELECT PERFUMERY UTENSILS
- cooking pots
- productional tools
- storing boxes
- fine boxes
- fine cutlery
WAYS OF TAKING IN THE AROMATIC MOLECULES
- skin application
TRADITIONAL WAYS OF APPRECIATING FRAGRANCES REVERENTLY
- Sensory appreciation of the natural atmosphere by full awareness.
- Garden architecture.
- Fragrant sacrifices to divine entities.
- Noble gesture of respect and hospitality to the community.
- Ritual appreciation of select olfactory notes for leisure and spiritual aims.
- Therapeutic use of aromatics.
- Flavoring food.
EXEMPLARY IDEALS AND CRITERIA (EACH ONE DESCRIBING A SPECIFIC CULTURE).
- Naturalness (Eastern Asia)
- Support of ritual purity (Islamic Asia).
- Representation of Paradise (Central Asia).
- Supporting harmony and balance of physical energies (South Asia).
- Accompanied by visible smoke rising to the sky, or to the Gods respectively (Eastern Asia).
TRADITIONAL MEANING OF FRAGRANCES
- Representing, symbolizing and supporting divine presence and energies.
- Source of gaining spiritual insight and refining one’s personality.
- Signifying healthy conditions.
- Supporting the maintenance of human health (’natural pharmacy‘).
- Paying respect towards divine entities as well as the community.
PERFORMING THE PROFESSION
- In the beginning: Everyday habit – overlap of cooking, hygienic care, and reverent devotional service.
- Over the centuries: Hobby – especially among those populations living in the cultivation area of aromatic plants.
- By time: Special profession – of herbalists, pharmacologists, therapists, spiritual masters, and perfumers.
TODAY’S ECONOMIC SIGNIFICANCE AND THREATS
- Integration into global markets of multinational enterprises especially since the 1990s.
- Object of (international) patents.
- A sizeable multi-billion dollar business.
- Overexploitation and loss of natural resources.
- Loss of local knowledge and traditional (sensory and production) skills.