Agarwood / Aloeswood
Agarwood is the resinous wood from the Aquilaria tree, an evergreen native
northern India, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
Agarwood is a very popular ingredient in Japanese incense and is often used in Traditional Chinese, Unani,
Ayurvedic, and Tibetan medicine.
Aquilaria tree grows up to 40 meters high and 60 centimeters in diameter. It
bears sweetly-scented, snow-white flowers. The trees frequently
become infected with a parasite fungus or mold,
and begin to produce an aromatic resin, in response to this attack. It is this
precious resinous wood that is treasured around the world. Today the resin is
commonly called Jinko, Agarwood, Agarwood, and Oud.
The resin of a tree from a natural fungal attack and immune response is commonly known
as agar #1. An inferior resin is created by the deliberate wounding of an
aquilaria tree; leaving it more susceptible to a fungal attack by using a forced
This is commonly called agar #2.
The fungus and decomposition process continue to generate a very rich and dark
resin forming within the heartwood. The resin created as a natural immune response makes the most
sacred oil on the planet. The wood is extremely rare and often very difficult
to obtain, as well as being quite expensive. The best quality is Kyara, which
comes in four types:
Iron, Purple, and Black.
There are many stories about Agarwood being buried under the ground for
hundreds of years. This legend comes from an old Chinese book on incense, but
today most Agarwood comes from infected trees that, although in the process of
decaying and dying, are indeed still standing. However, sometimes the roots
become infected with the fungus and these can be found underground.
It is believed, the famous piece of
Agarwood called Ranjatai (pictured above) was presented by Komyo Emperor for Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan, in the year 756 A.D. Ranjatai
was kept in the Shosoin warehouse of Todaiji Temple. Today, Ranjatai belongs to
the Royal family of Japan. Every autumn, many treasures of Shosoin are exhibited
in National Museum in Nara, titled Shosoin Ten (Exhibition). Because there are
many treasures in Shosoin, every year, they change the object of exhibition.
Ranjatai can be seen there every 10 or 15 years. Ranjatai has been now been
identified as coming from Laos or Vietnam by Japan's leading expert on
Agarwood, Dr. Yoneda from Osaka University.
by David Oller of Japanese-Incense.com. Edited by
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