Ancient Incense Craze

Updated: 2007-05-18 09:25

Incense as Time Keeper

Ancient Incense Craze

The ancient Chinese developed a clock that told time by the burning of incense. The steady smoldering of an incense stick provides the periodic "motion" of the clock. As the stick slowly burns, the heat breaks weighted threads set at regular intervals across the incense. The distance between each thread corresponds to a specific length of time. Time can be told by adding up the amount of threads that have broken.

There are several variations of the incense clock including one that indicated hours by smell. Different types of incense were placed next to each other to create one long stick that would burn for about twelve hours. Each type smoldered for an hour and the scent given off would indicate the time.

In the summertime, the incense clock not only told time but also dispelled mosquitoes, hence its popularity.

Medical Uses

Fragrant herbs have long been used as medicines in ancient China to prevent or treat diseases like white plague, skin disease and malaria. According to medical records, herbs were put into sachets and hung inside the house, or ground into powder, made into incense cakes and burned to kill bacteria and prevent plagues. Herbal tea and liquor were believed to promote heath.

The incense, which could prevent the books from being eaten by moths, was undoubtedly a book lover's best friend. Ancient Chinese scholars liked to add clove, sandalwood, muskiness and other spices to improve the unfavorable scent of Chinese ink and make the writing and painting an aesthetically pleasing experience.

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