My lessons in scents, essential oils from China

As any Chinese national such as myself can tell, the notion of scent has long a significant influence. Aromas have been employed in a variety of ways throughout China’s rich history as a spice exporter, including as remedies, offerings, or timekeepers, during religious or ceremonial occasions, and as a significant part of rituals and practices related to art and culture. Cool stuff!

Flowers give off some of my favorite scents!

A brief history of Chinese scent culture

Certain personalities were correlated with floral and plant fragrances. According to Taoist belief, a plant’s scent can free its spirit when it is extracted. The transformation of solid incense into fragrant vapors was a metaphor for the change from a physical or mortal condition to a spiritual or Tao one.

Historically, there wasn’t much of a difference between incense, perfume, herbs, and spices. The Chinese believed that “every scent is a medicine” and that there was a close relationship between an aroma and one’s mental and physical state. The word “Heang” was used to describe a smell, incense, or perfume. According to the mood it evokes, “Heang” is divided into six categories: serene, sedate, opulent, lovely, refined, or noble.


From my studies, I learned that the usage of incense dates back to the dawn of civilization in Chinese culture. It has been essential to intellectual, cultural, and ceremonial life for millennia. Incense was not only burned to purify the body or to pay homage to gods or ancestors, but it also developed into a very sophisticated form of art.

Spices including cinnamon, clove, cassia, and star anise were frequently employed by the nobility to make incense during the Han era (206BC-AD220).

Before being granted an audience with the Emperor, ministers were obligated to make their court attire aromatic with incense, according to the etiquette book “Han Palace Code.”

Scented spaces

Buddha’s Hand, sometimes known as a fingered citron, is a citrus fruit with a thick peel, no discernible juice, and occasionally no seeds. The fruit is very aromatic and revered in China and Japan as a sign of wealth, health, and longevity. It is either used to scent clothing or rooms, or it is offered aromatically on temple altars.

Scent for New Year

A significant event in Chinese culture, the Lunar New Year is commemorated over two weeks. The celebrations heavily involve citrus fragrances. Oranges, mandarins, and tangerines are examples of citrus fruits that have historically been used as signs of prosperity.

Oranges and tangerines are widely used as gifts, table decorations, and offerings at temples in China since the Chinese phrases for them sound lucky or prosperous and their color implies gold or money.

Traditional Chinese medicine and scents

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are 3 levels of Qi — called Wei, Ying, and Yuan — and, quite magically, these levels also relate to the fragrance notes of essential oils — Top, Middle, and Bottom notes.

Just some of the books I've read about aroma theory and therapy.

ei Qi level essential oils — top note In my experience, top notes are distilled from the outer parts of plants, such as peels and leaves; Top Notes are the surface layer of an aroma’s first impression, with a thin viscosity. Top Note oils that correspond to it are those that have an effect on acute upper body conditions.

Middle note essential oils — Ying Qi level The Ying level, which is related to the inside organs, blood, and emotions, is where the external Wei level transitions into. Middle Notes are the Ying Qi level oils, and we can see the synchrony in that these oils encourage the movement of Qi since they go a little deeper into the body and stay in the system a little longer. Middle notes are my favorite!

Base note essential oils — Yuan Qi level The deepest and most enigmatic level of energy, Yuan Qi, is connected to base note oils. Our Jing, also known as the life force or source energy, or Yuan qi, is linked to it. The energy behind our DNA, our potential, and our creation are what it is. We can therefore see the symmetry with Base Notes, which are derived from roots, resins, woods, and some flowers and are truly grounding, earthy, deep-acting oils, given that this is the deepest energy.