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The journey of incense sticks

To Vietnamese, burning incense is the traditional ritual meant to build a bridge between the visible life of the present generation and the spiritual world of gods and past generations.

 No matter the cult, a burning incense is the first thing to do to establish an environment conducive to spiritual elevation and attract gods or spirits attention.

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A woman is burning incense sticks at a Buddhist temple in HCM City. - Photos: Adrien Jean
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Bamboo is cut into small stick.

This traditional practice is done both at home on the ancestors’ altar and worshiping place, particularly pagodas,  on the most important days of the lunar calendar (1st and 15th days of lunar month), as well as on the death anniversary of a loved one or on a baby’s birth, and of course for Tet, the Lunar New Year.  It is part of people’s daily life and, so to speak, of the country’s cultural identity.

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Incense and long circular sticks are burning in a temple in HCM City’s District 1.

In the following photo essay pictured in HCM City, the whole process of incense production—from chopping bamboo rods into small pieces to the final packaging—is way more complicated than one may think and requires dedication at each stage.

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Incense sticks are dipped into colorful dyes until the right shade of the desired color is achieved.
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A young man is collecting dry incense sticks. After being dyed, these small bamboo sticks will be sun-dried
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In this phase, powder is mixed with other ingredients to make the final burning powder.
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Burning paste is added to the dry incense sticks.
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The burning part is applied to dry incense sticks.
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Incense sticks are spread out so that they can become dry quicker.
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Dry incense sticks are gathered…
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… and sorted out to pick the good sticks from broken ones.

SGT

Visiting incense-making Quang Phu Cau village

Visiting incense-making Quang Phu Cau village

Quang Phu Cau village in Ung Hoa district, 35 kilometres from downtown of Hanoi, is famous for its century-old craft of making incense. 

Phia Thap incense village in Cao Bang

Phia Thap incense village in Cao Bang

The incense craft of the Nung ethnic minority people in Phia Thap Village, Quoc Dan Commune, Quang Uyen District, Cao Bang Province is contributing to the preservation of a traditional spiritual culture.

Well-off families spend tens of millions on incense with natural scents

Well-off families spend tens of millions on incense with natural scents

Instead of buying incense with an artificial scent made of chemicals, high-income families pay millions of dong for ‘clean’ incense.

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