⟨ Misc ⟩

The Soul-Cleansing Fragrance

Fragrant Wood Gift Set by Tokyo Kodo

Words / Ron Lam
Translation / Iris Heung

初次接觸日本的香木,是在親戚的喪禮上。喪禮時,中國人為逝者進香支,而日本用的是香木。靈堂裡,逝死的遺照前,捻起幾片香木,舉至額前,邊嗅著香木的香氣,邊跟逝死訴說最後一番話。將香木放進香爐裡燃點著的香炭旁,香木被薰得火紅,青煙裊裊升起,香氣繞來。聽說香木於佛教的觀念裡,有著清淨內心的功能,喪禮上用的香木,大概是為洗淨逝者對現世的愛恨而燒的,讓他/她平平靜靜地離開,不思念、不留戀。

My first encounter with the Japanese fragrant wood chips was in a funeral of a relative of mine. While the Chinese offer incense to the deceased in a funeral, the Japanese use fragrant wood instead. They would stand in front of the picture of the deceased and hold a couple pieces of fragrant wood chip in front of their forehead. Surrounded by the scent of the fragrant wood, they would talk to the deceased one last time. Afterward, they would put the wood chips into the incense burner and let it burn by the fragrant charcoal; the fragrance will slowly rise with the burning smoke. I was told that according to the Buddhist belief, fragrant wood has the power to cleanse our soul. The fragrant wood used in a funeral is perhaps a means to clear away the love and hatred of the deceased had towards the mundane world, so they can leave peacefully without thinking of the life they left.

香木並非只用在喪禮上的,它就像香支一樣,於平常生活裡也能用上,同樣有著舒緩心神的功用。只是使用香木時需要更多的耐性,它不如香支或香薰,劃一根火柴就能燃點。你必須備預一個盛滿香灰的杯子,先燃點香炭,待香炭有一半燒得變白了,才灑下香木。香木多是白檀或沈香,而依著香木與香炭的距離,散發出來的香氣也有點微妙的差異。燃點需要花點時間,要摸索出自己喜歡的香氣,找到香木與香炭最合適的距,也得全神貫注,然而正因為過程費神費時,才有足夠的余餘來忘掉日常的繁雜困擾。

The fragrant wood is not exclusively used for funerals; like incense, it can be used in everyday life to create a calm atmosphere. However, it requires more patience to light up a piece of fragrant wood chip. Unlike incense sticks or incense cone that can be easily lit up using a burning match, with the fragrant wood chip, you have to first prepare a cup filled with fragrant ashes, then light up the fragrant charcoal. When the charcoal turns white, you can finally add in your wood chips. Most of the fragrant woods are made of sandalwood or agarwood, the difference in the type of wood and the distance between the wood and the charcoal can also bring out a subtly different scent. It takes time to light up the wood, it also takes time to get the perfect scent by trying to move the wood chips closer to or further away from the charcoal. The burning process requires dedication which in turn helps one to focus on burning and forget about the tedious everyday life.

香木不比其他香薰用品般深入民心,而由專門生產寺廟用的香支的Nakahori發展出來的品牌東京香堂,為了讓人更簡單輕易地嘗試使用香木,特別製作了香木組合,當中包括了白檀、沈香的香木屑、灰、香炭、用以夾香炭的夾子、用來撥灰埋香木的小匙,以及玻璃杯等。

Nakahori is a brand that specializes in producing incense stick for the Japanese shrine. Seeing the lack of popularity of fragrant wood when compared to other types of incense, Nakahori has launched a brand called Tokyo Kodo that focuses on promoting fragrant wood. The brand’s gift set consists of fragrant sandalwood and agarwood, ash, charcoal, a tweezer for picking up the charcoal, a spatula for sweeping the ash around the wood, and a glass.