The Distinctive Scent of Korean Incense

A desire to mask the smell of decaying bodies is what led Korean people to begin using incense. They believe the fumes of the incense alert the spirit of the departed. Another practice in Korea is to use incense to ‘draw’ on rice paper. The incredibly time-consuming process is a contemplative one in which the artist uses sticks of lit incense to slowly burn designs into the paper. The burnt designs have charred edges. These edges create a haunting contrast with the translucence of the rice paper, especially when placed against a transparent windowpane.Incense is more versatile than perfumes because it makes use of substances such as tree barks, saps and roots which one is unable to liquefy or isolate into a perfume or cologne. When the components of incense are set on fire, the heat causes the different forms to combine into a single, unique bouquet.Although Korean incense is quite distinctive compared to that from other countries, it is often difficult to distinguish between Korean aromas. This is true of the two top line Korean incenses: bo rim – meaning ‘treasure woods’ – and ja-kum. The gem of Korean incense, bo rim, is mainly composed of red sandalwood and pine. Its scent is tangy and rich. The ja-kum incense is quite similar but the addition of teucrium veronicoides and white poria cocos produce a rich intense aroma. The ilgakmun Korean incense’s scent reminds one of old mountain sandalwood and is very light and slightly resiny. The very reddish Korean incense called seok-hyang is again strong in sandalwood smells but without the old mountain freshness.

Ma’s India carries a selection of fine Korean incense blends. Da-Bo Incense is a blend of pine, cinnamon, turmeric and other herbs. The word ‘dabo’ in Korean means ‘many treasures’. The sticks are great for purifying the air and facilitating a sense of well being.

Chui Woon means ‘emerald cloud’ and is made of figwort, clove, elecampane and other spices. Our Jing Kwan Incense is a blend of aloeswood, frankincense, sandalwood and other spices. Its name means clear gaze.

You might want to try our Tube Coffin Incense Burner for these Korean Incenses. A family of wood artisans made our tube coffin burners. Brass inlays of moons and stars decorate the sides along with jail cut-out designs. The compartment of the incense burner is hinged for easy access.

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