Yi Woon Ji(林園經濟志 怡雲志)

Taesik Yun

Attar Yun | Ouddict
Staff member

Yi Woon Ji - Part 1​

林園經濟志(The books about countryside livelihood) is an encyclopedia written by 17th-century Joseon dynasty philosopher 徐有榘(1764~1845). among the 16 series(113 volumes, 54 issues) he wrote, 怡雲志(Records about cultural life, pronunciation: Yi Woon Ji in Korean) caught my attention because it has descriptions about incense ingredients, how to make them, and various other topics related to incense.

I'll try to translate that information into English whenever I find time to do so we all could learn more about the incense tradition from the old days in China and Korea, Japan. the author referenced 900+ books from every country he can source. so this information will be most likely very accurate and correct. but take the information with a grain of salt because I'm not a professional translator and there are possibilities of changes in the meaning of words, measurement units that were used back in those days compared to how we used them today.

the contents I'll upload will not follow the index of the book. I'll upload things I find interesting first and I might not even upload a few sections.

So, without further ado, let's get started.
(All the original content is researched, translated into modern Korean language by Pungseok Cultural Foundation. I don't own the copyright of the original content)

須東真者, 劉如米粒大, 慢火炒令煙出 紫色新氣 郎止.
How to process 檀香(sandalwood)
Sort out authentic ones and chop them into rice grain size. fry them on a weak fire until they smoke. once they emit purple-colored smoke, stop heating them right away.

儿和香用蜜, 須微煉數沸, 不可大過 仍入蘇合油, 若 蜜一斤、 入油二兩、 同煉大 妙
How to process honey
Generally, honey is used when mixing incense. honey must be boiled several times over low heat, but it shouldn't be too boiled down. during the process, keep pouring 蘇合油(Resin of Liquidambar orientalis). if the honey is 600g, 75g of 蘇合油 makes excellent honey.
reference: 居家必用
Filter good honey with a cotton sheet then put it into a ceramic pot. press it down and tighten it with 115.5gram worth of oil-soaked paper(油單). put this pot inside of kettle and double boiling it over a day then get it out. repeat the process until the water content is all removed. the honey processed in this way doesn't change for years.

凡修合諸香, 須入艾納, 和 均焚之, 香煙直上三尺許, 結聚成毯, 氫氫不散. 更 加酸裹仁, 研入香中, 煙自 不散. 艾納者, 大松樹上青 苔衣也, <古今秘苑>
How to gather incense smoke
艾納(Blumeae Ramulus, blue-ish moss that grows on hundreds of years old pine tree barks) should be utilized when mixing multiple ingredients incense. when 艾納 is mixed well in the incense dough, the smoke from burned incense goes up to around 100cm and makes a dense ball shape without spreading. if you add grounded Zizyphus seed(酸裏仁) in it, the smoke doesn't scatter away.

江南李王帳中香 製法
用沈香一兩細到, 加以我 梨十枚研取汁於銀器内盛, 却蒸三次, 梨汁乾即用之.
How to make 'Lord 李's pear incense
Chop 37.8grams of agarwood finely. add juice made out of grounded 10 Ya pears. (鴨梨) put the dough inside of a silver bowl and steam cook it three times. use it after once the pear juice is completely dried.
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Taesik Yun

Attar Yun | Ouddict
Staff member


Yi Woon Ji - Part 2​


Most of the strongly fragrant ingredients generally come from tropical regions out of the sea. among those, only 1~2 out of 10 are produced in China, and only 1~2 out of 100 are produced in our county. thus things get mixed with counterfeits during trading processes.

Therefore here I document each ingredient's appearance and quality in detail by collecting multiple authorities' studies to help those who use incense with novel intention discern genuine ingredients from deceiving ones.

Borneol Camphor(龍腦香)

Comes from Srivijaya(波律國, a country that existed in the west Indonesian region. traded with China during the 6 to 10 century) the tree's height is about 24m to 27m long, the diameter is about 6~7 arm span of an adult. the leaves have a round shape and have a white backside.

There are fat trees and skinny trees, skinny trees have resins. one said, "Borneol comes from skinny trees and fat trees produce resins. you can collect resins by cutting down the trees and split the tip of the tree because the resin is inside of heartwood."

洪芻(10-century Chinese clerisy)'s 香譜(The book of fragrance) described as this.
"Has the similar appearance of a pine resin, the scent of cedarwood. there are differences between fresh ones and aged ones. fresh ones are as described above. recondite ones among those are called '梅化龍腦(Plubm blossom Borneol)'. when heated, vapor evaporates and leaves condensed lumps. the scent and flavor of this are slightly more paint than fresh ones."


陶弘景(Song dynasty medical practitioner, author of 本草經集注(Records on medicinal plants)) described musk as this.
"A musk deer that ate a lot of snakes and bugs during summer gets filled with musk grains in winter. when spring comes, it plucks out its own musk with its claws because it suddenly feels pain in its belly. then it covers that with its pisses and shits. it always does this in the same place. the scent of this musk is far superior to the ones harvested from a dead musk deer.

Nowadays people mostly make fakes. in general, genuine musks are made by dividing one slap of big musk into 3~4 slaps. you carve out a genuine musk and take the blood coat(血膜) and mix with other materials. then wrap them with leathers of musk deer's knee part and sell it. but the ones that have hairs inside of them when split are considered to be superior."

圖經本草(Medical book written in Song dynasty, also called as 圖經) described musk as this.
"There are three grades in musk. the first grade is called '生香(alive)'. it's also called '遺香(remain)'. these are the ones that musk deer plucked out its own. but it's extremely difficult to get. the price of this grade of musk is equal to a pearl that formed in a shell. plants and trees near where it is cannot grow. they dry up whether they are far away or near from it. plants that grow around the trails that people with musk have passed by do not bear fruit, so that is evidence.

The second grade is '臍香(belly button)'. these are the ones that were collected from dead musk deers.

The third grade is '心結香(heart formation)'. these are the ones that musk deers dropped when they're running away from an animal that chasing. the ones that you see dry content when opened among this grade are not appropriate to use in medicines.

Also, there is a special variety called '水麝(Water musk)' their scent is very mysterious. they are filled with water. if you put one or two drops of it into the 18litre of water and spray it on a cloth, its fragrance won't go away."

李時珍(Chinese herbalist, 1518~1593) described as this
"The musk from west-north regions are powerful, while musks from east-south regions are somewhat useful the efficacy is next to musks from west-north regions."

Musk deers can be found in our county as well but their quality is low.


蘇頌(Chinese medicine practitioner, 1019~1101) described as this
"Nother Vietnam's honey fragrance trees(蜜香樹). people over there bring these trees and cut down old trees' roots. year after, the twigs and outer part of those trees decay except heartwoods and some twigs.

Solid, dark, sink underwater parts are 沈香(agarwood). half sink ones are called 鷄骨香(Chicken bone agarwood). thin twigs that are filled with solid resins and don't decay are called 靑桂香(blue cassia tree agarwood). stems are called 楼香(pavilion), roots are called 黃熟香(Yellow soil wood). lightweight and bigger parts of roots are called 馬蹄香(Horseshoe fragrance). these six grades come from the same tree but vary in quality."

李時珍 described as this "there are generally three grades of agarwood. 沈香, 楼香, 黃熟香 are those.

沈香 sink under the water. there are four general classifications for this. The first one is 熟結香(ripe formation), they are the ones that were rotted and naturally fell off from the trees. the second one is 生結香(alive formation), they are the ones from cut-down trees that are hacked with axes and knives. the third one is 脫落香(fell off), They are the ones from where the saps in the tree are rotten and hardened. the fourth one is 蟲漏香(bug-bitten formation). they are the ones from where resins hardened inside of cracks gnawed by bugs. 生結香(alive formation) is high grade and 熟結香(ripe formation), 脫落香(fell off) comes after.

Solid black agarwood is high grade and the brown ones are next to them. 角沈香(star-shaped pointy, black agarwood) is black and glossy, 黃沈香(brown agarwood) is brown and glossy, 蠟沈香(beeswax agarwood) is soft and tough, 革沈香(leather agarwood) has wrinkles horizontally. these four grades are high grades.

Agarwood from islands in the ocean has pestle, elbow, knuckle, turtle, snake, phoenix, sparrow, cloud, human shapes. agarwood from Hainan, China region such as 馬蹄香(Horseshoe), 牛頭香(Cow head), 燕口香(Swallow mouth), 繭栗香(Cow horn), 竹葉香(Bamboo leaf), 芝菌香(Mushroom), 梭子香(Drum), 附子香(Root of Chinese aconite) is named after their shapes.

Next is 楼香. these are half sinking ones. they are half resinated saps that are attached to trees. it's also called '煎香'. among these, there are 螺刺香(Hedgehog spike shaped), 鷄骨香(Chicken born shaped), 葉子香(Leaf shaped). they are named after their shapes. ones that have the size of a hat is called 蓬萊香(Mountain shaped), Boulder shaped ones are called 光香.

Next is 黃熟香. these are lightweight, hollow ones. these are the ones that are misinterpreted as 速香(fast) to the public. 生速香(alive fast) is the ones collected by cutting trees and 熟速香(riped fast) are collected by rotting trees. among them, big ones that can carve is called 木盤頭(Wooden table). they all not good enough to fit in medicine grade just usable as incense."

遵生八笺(fosterage book written in Ming dynasty) described this as
"Angled black agarwood is heavy and the fragrance is as good as its black appearance when cracked. their quality of scent does not depend on sink or non-sink. because good 速香(fast) can sink as well. also, there are 片速香(piece fast), it's called 鯛魚片(crucian carp shaped piece) in public. ones that have chicken or pheasant's spotted pattern are considered to be good. there are counterfeits for this but heavy ones among these to be considered to be good ones as well."

Based on these, the agarwood people in our county buys are all either 楼香 or 黃熟香. genuine agarwood has never been passed to our country so far.

Translator's comment​

I was planning to translate the 'How to make incense' section first but figured it'd be hard to understand those recipes without knowing how people from that day graded, used each ingredient, and many other relevant notes. hence I'll try to finish translating the ingredients section first then follow it with incense recipes. there are still quite a lot of ingredients to translate. and many other topics relevant to incense.

Note that many of the Chinese characters I used in this writing are quite loosely translated and had not appropriate synonyms in English. or I couldn't find them. if you have suggestions for a better translation, let me know.


Oud Beginner
Interesting read. Bukhoor in the Yemen is mixed in a similar fashion. They can use honey to blend the ingredients but today they normally use suqar nabat which is a sort of crystalized sugar that gets melted down. They will also use agarwood, myrrh, and floral oils in making their mix. I assume that honey was a common blender the world over, until other methods became more popular.

I've also read about ancient Chinese classifications of Agarwood. It's interesting to see how previous generations graded their oud. Oddly enough, the western sources will mention agarwood but rarely discuss the grading in detail. Of course, I mean Western Asia by Western.

Taesik Yun

Attar Yun | Ouddict
Staff member
continuing from Yi Woon Ji - Part 2, Ingredient section

檀香, Tan Xiang​

*note that back in those days, Southeast Asian countries considered C. japonica, Abies holophylla as one of the members of Santalum genus(Sandalwood we know today). they named this group "檀木('Tan Xiang' in Chinese)".

In 葉延珪(Song dynasty scholar)'s book 香譜(Book about aromatics' name and their usages), Tan Xiang described as this.
"Yellowish trees with thick barks are 黃檀(Yellow, Dalbergia). and white trees with smooth barks are 白檀(White, Santalum), purple trees with crumbly barks are 紫檀(Red, Rosewood). they are all solid, heavy, have a fabulous aroma. 白檀(Sandalwood) is especially great among these three. 檀香(Tan Xiang) should be wrapped with paper to preserve their scent.

In 王佐(Ming dynasty scholar)'s book 格古論(Book about various products' origin and commentary on them), Tan Xiang described as this.
"紫檀(Rosewood) grows many places in 溪桐(Region in Southwest China where minority ethnic live). the wood is hard. new ones are red, old ones are purple, have a crab-leg-like pattern. the water that freshly harvested trees soaked can be used for dyeing. if you rub it on the wall and leaves a purple mark, that's a genuine one. 黃檀(Dalbergia)'s fragrance is the most excellent among Tan Xiang, therefore it can be used in making belt accessories and hand fans.

遵生八笺(Fosterage book written in Ming dynasty) described Tan Xiang as this.
"Yellowish, thick Tan Xiang is the best. soak them in tea then stir-fry it yellow remove the unpleasant smell."

蘇合香, Liquidambar orientalis Mill, oriental sweetgum​

李時珍(Chinese herbalist, 1518~1593) described oriental sweetgum as this.

"According to 寰宇志(Ming dynasty geography book), oriental sweetgum grows in Vietnam, Sri Vijaya(Kingdom ruled Sumatran regions during 7~13 century), frontier near China. you can make medicine with the tree's raw resin. dark, free from debris ones are considered to be high-grade."

沈括(Song dynasty officialdom, scholar) described oriental sweetgum as this in his book 夢溪筆談(沈括's commentary on various topics and records of the conversation he had with others).

"This oriental sweetgum is red, stiff as trees. also, there is oriental sweetgum that many people use similar to 藕膠(sticky material. made from grounded inner barks of Ilex Integra. people used it to catch bugs and birds. Japanese call it 鳥黐:とりもち, Tori Mochi). 劉禹錫(Tang dynasty officialdom, poet) mentioned oriental sweetgum a lot in his book 傳信方(Medical book written by 劉禹錫). he described it as 'thin leaves are gold-ish, if you touch it, it becomes smaller and soon returns to its original shape. ones that have a strong aroma and wiggle like bugs are good.' if his saying is correct, then what we're using now is not fit his description. we need to look close about it.'"

安息香, Benzoin​

蘇恭(Tang dynasty medical practitioner) described benzoin as this.
"Benzoin comes from western outskirts. its shape is like pine resin, has brown-black color, and forms clumps."

In 葉延珪(Song dynasty scholar)'s book 香譜(Book about aromatics' name and their usages), described benzoin as this.
"It's a resin that has a similar shape and color to the walnut kernel. it's not suitable for burning itself. thus people blend it with other aromatics for its complex scent. there's something similar to taffy that people use when they mix aromatics. that's called 安息油(benzene oil(?)) and 汪機(Ming dynasty medical practitioner) said: "Benzoin that lures rats when burned are genuine ones." "

there are still about 20 ingredients to translate. 😂 translating this book is taking a lot more time than I expected

List of ingredients to translate
- 鬱金香, Liliaceae family Tulipa gesneriana L.
- 丁香, Clove
- 乳香, Frankincense
- 木香, 土木香, Elecampane(Inula helenium)
- 降眞香, Dalbergiae Odoriferae Lignum
- 艾蒳香, Blumea balsamifera
- 甘松, Spikenard, Nardostachys jatamansi
- 零陵香, Lysimachia foenum-graeci
- 橄欖香, Resin of canarium album
- 茅山細枝倉元(?)
- 檳榔苔, A moss grows on Areca catechu L.
- 鐵面香, a type of musk. couldn't find what it is
- 甲香, Onycha
- 伽羅香, Kyara