The smell of incense always brings me up short and evokes a Proustian moment that causes me pause. The smell of incense will always be Hong Kong in my mind. The sweet, heavy odour is encountered in accidental moments throughout the city as there are large and small temples, some so small they are just depressions outside a door, all over the city. Incense gives a home to the ghosts of elders, freeing up domestic space for good fortune. It also gives thanks for gifts bestowed by gods and is offered in anticipation of future benefit. As such it’s circular form is also a mechanism through which time can curve back upon itself.
This particular incense is from a large temple in Hong Kong, but my favorite place to find the smell of incense is in a very small temple just west of the Graham street market on Peel street just off of Staunton street. The temple is a small space that is at the same time perfect but also incongruous in its context. It is not particularly visible from Staunton street, but as one heads down the stairs, there it is, waiting for gifts to the ancestors and the gods.
The incense coils can burn for hours or days, marking out the moments necessary for honour. The coils have no core and are made of sandalwood charcoal that is extruded by a machine and wrapped into the coil on what looks like a record player turntable. The coils are left to dry and then packaged for people to buy (A video is available here). In the larger temples the air is thick with the white smoke that is a result of the burning of countless coils and even more joss sticks left in sand.
This post is part of the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Curves.