Since ancient times, people have been enjoying fragrance, with which they add something delightful to their life. Incense is also considered a vehicle, with which people convey their thoughts to heaven, and thus incense carries a religious meaning. In western countries, people like to show their individuality through perfume; yet to eastern people, incense can be a token of inner cultivation or a particular personality.
Confucianism has a great impact on Chinese and stresses the rituals on how to incense properly. For instance, according to ancient documents, before the juniors greeted their seniors, they had to get clean and tidy as well as wear fragrant sachets, which was part of the courtesy and education. Such an act was believed to have a positive influence on children’s conduct of life.
Confucius once said that if we associate with the good, we will eventually and naturally become good, and vice versa. Confucius depicted human virtues with analogs involving fragrance, and he meant to imply that if we associate with decent people, we will inadvertently become decent.
In the Tang dynasty, a literate called Liu-yu-shi once wrote a paragraph centering on decency. He further stated that a decent person with virtues has a heart that gives off invisible fragrance and can emanate an aura of stability, joy, and warmth, which attracts people around him.
In addition, a musician in the Ming dynasty inspected himself in four aspects. He thought that one should not gain something which does not belong to him, should not have improper sexual relationships, should not say something untrue or exaggerate, and finally should not bear jealousy or grudge in mind. If one can keep the belief in mind, his character can give off fragrance, and such a person can be praised and respected no matter where he is.
Incense is a token of great virtue, and it is commonly believed that we can cultivate our inner wealth through the sense of smell. Then gradually, we can appreciate the incense lore on the metaphysical level.