Agarwood for Kodo
The Treasured Aromatic of the Kodo Ceremony
Agarwood is the resinous wood from the Aquilaria tree, an evergreen native to 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.
The 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, Phialophora parasitica, 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 method. 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: Green, 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.
*Written and contributed by David Oller and edited by Mark Ambrose. Our eternal thanks to David for introducing us to Kodo. Rest in peace my old friend.
For a more information on agarwood (a.k.a. aloeswood) see our agarwood monograph.