Monday, March 29, 2010

Decoding Obscure Notes Part IX-B: Religious Uses and Cultural Significance of Agarwood

The top consumers globally for agarwood products are the United Arab Emirates, Saudia Arabia, Japan and Taiwan. Singapore and Hong-Kong are the largest re-exporters of agarwood from its countries of origin (i.e.: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, etc.).

Agarwood uses are mainly in incense, for both religious and cultural purposes; and to a lesser extent (because of its dear cost) in medicine and perfumery. The list of commercial perfumes using agarwood is rather short, because agarwood is very expensive and cannot be replicated very well with synthetics. Besides, the scent of agarwood is an acquired taste that has only recently become more trendy in the Western world.

Religious and Cultural Significance
Agarwood is used in religious rituals and ceremonies of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. Agarwood culture have reached its height in popularity and sophistication in both Arabia and Japan – even though it is not native to either of these regions, and in both cultures it has become significant for both religious purposes and for pleasure, thus becoming a rich component of these two cultures. Because of its enormously high price, only select few people can enjoy agarwood, and even fewer can enjoy the highest grades of agarwood.
Agarwood is mentioned in the bible only in later books of Psalms and Canticles. Although both books are very holy to the Jews, the context in which agarwood is mentnioned in both books seems to be for lucury and personal use, rather than religious purposes (it is not mentioned in the holy incense or anointing oils of the tabernacle).

References and sources for entire agarwood series:
CITES: The Use and Trade of Agarwood in Japan
CITES: Agarwood Use and Trade & CITES Implementation for A. Malaccensis
The Cropwatch Files 1
The Cropwatch Files 2
Royal Oudh
Bo Jensen

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