Tao of Incense

The history of incense burning in China is as long as six or seven thousand years. Due to historical changes, especially since the Opium War, China’s social life had fallen into a period of extreme chaos due to war and poverty. People could not get the surplus capital required to support pursuits for personal development to enjoy the elegant culture of incense when their basic needs were far from being met.


China as a country had developed and has been using the Tao of incense for thousands of years. It can be traced back to ancient ancestors who used products that contained fragrant substances of trees and herbs, such as zeeland, wormwood, rue, benzoin, sandalwood, and chicken tongue (cloves) etc. People used these fragrant woods or herbal fumigation baths for the purpose of driving away evil spirits and preventing and curing diseases. The Tao of incense gradually developed to a more rich and profound cultural activity.

The primary benefits of incense are:

  1. To help with Tao and moral cultivation. Regardless of Confucianism, Buddhism or Taoism, the one who achieves a high level of Tao cultivation will release the fragrance of elixir from their body. This elixir fragrance is similar to the smell of burning incense which contains the aromatic essence of plants. Therefore the Taoist cultivator burns incense everyday to emulate the natural pure positive essence of herbs contained within incense which symbolizes the attainment of Tao. The sweet smell of incense is also the incarnation of a gentleman and is characterized as righteousness. Incense is a pure positive material. Incense can combine the original Shen and the original nature of humanity creating a condition which aligns you with nature. Incense contributes to character building and easing tension, reducing stress, preventing disease and cultivating self-restraint.
  2. To strengthen the “Dragon” meridian channels which are the lung and stomach meridians on the human body. The lung and stomach meridians are usually open as they are constantly receiving from the external environment. When people become tired, these channels will become vulnerable and negative energy (Yinxie) will easily enter the body. Burning good quality incense will prevent negative energy entering the lung and stomach meridian channels, thus preventing sickness and disease in times of weakness.
  3. To gain wisdom. The fragrant substance of the incense enters the spleen and repairs and solidifies the spleen. This is important as the spleen leads the mind and nurtures thought. When the spleen is in a healthy state, it enables both quick thinking and provides great inspiration. This condition allows for the effective promotion of any undertaking engaged in.
  4. To drive out evil and prevent disease. Burning incense frequently in living quarters will greatly reduce incidents of disease or sickness. Fragrant and spiced material which has absorbed the essence of sky and earth contains a significant amount of positive energy. This energy is effective at neutralising the six negative energies of extreme wind, extreme cold, extreme heat, extreme dryness, extreme dampness and heatwaves. People are most likely to be impacted by these negative energies at night during sleep with the elderly being especially vulnerable. Once people are impacted by these negative energies, they become exposed to sickness and disease which significantly damages their health. Incense can help people avoid being exposed to negative energies in the first instance.

About author

Master Dongyang branches out from Daoist lineages that stem from private Daoist hermits. He promotes Dao as a practical, effective and functional way to deal with the world with ease without having to retreat from it. He bridges the gap between ancient knowledge and the modern world.