CERNUSCHI Museum, Paris, March 9-August 26, 2018: a most beautiful exhibition dedicated to ‘Perfumes of China, the culture of incense in imperial times’
This exhibition takes visitors on a journey through the Chinese civilization from the 3rd century BC to the 19th century. Endowed with increasing symbolic qualities through the ages, perfume provides a fitting outlook on many aspects of the Chinese culture. From its significance in liturgical practices to its association with the art de vivre of intellectual circles, incense has given rise to a great variety of artistic and literary productions. From fragrance burners to incense tables, the history of perfume in China is an opportunity to explore some of the most superb creations in a great variety of materials and mediums, from ceramics to lacquer, and from painting to calligraphy. Lastly, a collection of works by the greatest painters depicts elegant ladies, hermits, and scholars and their relationship to incense, whether used for toiletry, meditative, or ritualistic purposes.
Visitors will enjoy olfactory experiences all along the way and discover ancient incense recipes dating back to the greatest historical periods of China, until the 19th century. François Demachy, perfumer of Dior Parfums, reinterpreted perfumes based on old Chinese formulas translated and selected by the exhibition Scientific Advisor, Frédéric Obringer (CNRS – French National Centre for Scientific Research).
At the conference following the guided visit, the speaker, Frédéric Obringer, put an emphasis on one of the specificities of these approaches: swallowable perfume!!!! This specific formula combining rhizome, seeds, roots, whole plants, and others, was to be taken following precise instructions: one square-inch spoonful, three times a day after each meal, with a drink. After every day, your mouth is perfumed. After 10 days, your body is perfumed. After 20 days, your flesh is perfumed. After 30 days, your days are perfumed. After 50 days, the perfume can be smelt over a long distance. After 60 days, the perfume can get through your clothes.
Several brands, many of which are Asian, have already taken interest in this approach, though more or less successfully: Pillbox with Kaöru, Lucy Mac Rae with Swallowable Parfum, or Bulgarian confectioner Alpi, who drew inspiration from tests carried out in Japan to create Alpi Deo Perfume Candy Rose.
Will this new pattern of use born centuries ago be revisited with modern, recent technologies like OOHO! (see cover picture)? If it is, this practice might actually spark interest again.
To be continued!!
By Jean Claude LE JOLIFF