Perfumes of China: The Culture of Incense in Imperial China {Scented Paths & Fragrant Addresses}

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Chen Hongshu, a woman scenting her sleeves above an incense-burner, Ming, [1368-1644], 129 cm x 49 cm (detail)

Musée Cernuschi in Paris is curating a new exhibition dedicated to the Chinese culture of fragrance - incense in particular - in imperial China entitled Parfums de Chine, la culture de l'encens au temps des empereurs (Perfumes of China: The Culture of Incense in Imperial China,) which opens on March 9, 2018 and runs until August 26, 2018...

The exhibit benefits from an exceptional loan from the Museum of Shanghai, which will be the first of its kind in Europe and will allow visitors to discover the representations, uses and meanings of incense and scent under six different dynasties from the 3rd century BCE to the 19th century. 110 artifacts will be showcased.

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The Eighteen Literati, anonymous, ink and colors on silk, 134,2 x 76,6 cm, Ming, © Shanghai Museum

The scenography starts with the ritual practices of the Han and Tang dynasties, from the 3rd century BCE to the 9th century CE; it is followed by a segment on the role of perfume in the culture of the literati under the Song and Yuan dynasties from the 10th to the 14th century; the art of incense is examined under the Ming dynasty from the 14th century to the 17th century; in the last part, courtly perfume and the development of manufactures during the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912) linked to the ever widening role of incense and perfume in society is addressed.

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Incense burner with a pair of birds, bronze, Han dynasty [ 206 BCE - 220 CE] © Shanghai Museum

In a bid to illustrate more concretely the arts of olfaction, the museum is integrating a sensory approach to the more classical historical one in collaboration with Dior Parfums.

Dior perfumer François Demachy has recreated ancient incense recipes based on texts selected and translated by scientific consultant Frédéric Obringer of EHESS. The context of discovery of the smells will be explained including the origins of the recipes and the gestures which accompanied the usage of burning incense.

Musée Cernuschi

7 avenue Vélasquez

75008 Paris

tél : 01 53 96 21 50
fax : 01 53 96 21 96

[Source: press release]

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