Handmade Tibetan Incense - Representative of Tibetan Culture

Tibetan incense

Tibetan incense is the traditional incense used in Tibetan areas and Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan incense is produced in Tibet, northern Nepal, and Bhutan. Tibetan incense has a typical "earth" or "herbal" flavor. Like most Asian incense, Tibetan incense is not wrapped around bamboo poles but squeezed into a certain length or roll shape. The Tibetan incense, which is listed as one of the "three treasures of Tibet", is a traditional Tibetan handicraft and an important representative of Tibetan culture.

Origin of Tibetan Incense

After the 7th century AD, Songtsan Gambo sent 16 young talents to study in India, 15 of them died abroad, and only Thonmi Sambhota returned. Later, he returned to his hometown Tumda village. He found that the land here was scarce, and he passed on the techniques of making Tibetan incense to the people for improving the lives of the villagers. He used the resources of the Tumba River to invent the water mill Tibetan incense, which should be the earliest Tibetan incense in Tibet. It has been more than 1,300 years since then. 

In ancient times, Tibetan incense was made of a single ingredient, either cypress branches or a special herb. It's wildly used on various occasions. If a family member who went out for a long journey, they would light a Tibetan incense. Or in the ceremony of building a house, or moving to a new home, or funeral. Later, Tibetan incense with mixed raw materials was developed. The composition of raw materials ranges from a dozen to dozens of types. According to the theory of Tibetan medicine, Tibetan incense products that meet the Five Elements of the human body are developed and progressed. With the spread of Buddhism, it gradually became an indispensable daily necessity for the Tibetan people. According to Buddhists, the fragrancy of the Tibetan incense can be transmitted to the Elysium, so people who burn the incense can be rewarded for good deeds. Some people use Tibetan incense for a long time, and they can retain a special fragrance for a long time.

Incense Ingredients and Effects

What is Tibetan incense made of? Traditionally, there are many raw materials for making authentic Tibetan incense, generally based on cypress trunks or elm trunks, and then saffron, snow lotus, musk, Rhodiola rosea, clove, borneol, sandalwood, agarwood, pine, etc. are kneaded with the main material according to a proportion. It does not contain any chemical spices, and the proportion of each ingredient and treatment method is strictly regulated.

Tibetan incense is a variety of precious Chinese herbal medicines, which are physically mixed and formulated in proportion and have great medicinal value. Its medicinal principles are detoxification, sterilization, anti-infection, anti-virus. It can kill pathogenic microorganisms in the air, purify the air, and prevent the spread of viruses. Burning incense indoors, its fragrance diffuses, penetrates through the skin joints, not only purifies the air, moisturizes the skin, but also enhances the ability to resist disease,  prevents joint pain, regulates the skin, relieves mental tension, reduces neurological headaches, and improves sleep quality.

Handmade Process of Tibetan Incense

Its production process contains the essence of Tibetan culture. The production process of Tibetan handmade incense is generally as follows: First, incense masters process the raw materials with "water method" or "fire method", to enhance its medicinal properties and reduce its toxicity. Then grind all kinds of cypress branches with water, crush all kinds of auxiliary materials into powder. Mix all the raw materials made into powder with water and place it for a period of time (time is strictly regulated). The third step is to use a horn tool and extrude the incense mud into strips by hand. Finally, dry in the shade and make a finished product. In terms of time, there is a difference between winter and summer. Usually, fermentation time only takes about 2 days in summer, which means starting on the first day and it can be processed on the next day. For the whole process, it takes ten days to complete the entire set of procedures in summer and a little longer in winter.

handmade craft

At present, most of the production of Tibetan incense has abandoned the traditional handmade process, and some of the stages of production have been completed by machines. Dozens of spices are configured in different proportions and processed through various procedures, and finally made into Tibetan incense that embodies the essence of Tibetan culture.

Tibetan Incense and Buddhism

Tibetan incense has a deep relationship with Buddhism. Thonmi Sambhota introduced the technique of making incense from India, the birthplace of Buddhism, for sacrificial activities. The formula of Tibetan incense is derived from the Buddhist sutras and the Tibetan medicine scriptures so it's sacred and solemn. The process of making Tibetan incense is a practice. The finished Tibetan incense is one of the important religious supplies of Tibetan Buddhism and a must-have for every temple.

During major religious activities, it is common for eminent monks to light incense, which shows respect to Buddha. Incense burning is a homage to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Tibetan incense can clear karma and accumulate blessings. Good Tibetan incense can calm people's minds and minds and revitalize the Buddha's heart.

Where to Buy Tibetan Incense

The standard of good Tibetan incense is pure raw materials, pure fragrance, lingering flavor, and fewer incense ashes. In the history of traditional handmade Tibetan incense, Nyemo Tibetan incense in Tunba Village of Nimu County, You Minba Tibetan incense in Amdo, and Minzhulin in Shannan are known as the top three traditional Tibetan incense production sites.

Located in 140 kilometers west of Lhasa, Nymu County's Tunba Village has more than 1000 years' history of Tibetan incense production and is the largest production base in Tibetan areas. The quality of Nymu Tibetan incense is characterized by its good smelling, fresh, and uplifting. For You Minba Tibetan incense, most of its raw materials are purchased from local people in Shannan, Northern Tibet, Nyingchi and other places, and some are purchased from Pakistan, India, Cambodia and other places. It features natural flavor, long-lasting aroma, extraordinary and unique function. For Mindrolling incense in Shannan, it features mellow, delicate, dense, and burns for a particularly long time.

Tibet Drigung and Tashilunpo Monastery also produce their own Tibetan incense. Drigung's incense is featured by the fermentation method. Some medicinal materials like saffron need to be cooked before fermentation, and some binders must be used such as palm ginseng.

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