The Tibetan incense maker

Tibetan incense plays a special role in Tibetan culture, medicine and Buddhist practice. Traditional Tibetan medicine, known as Ggso ba rig pa or Sowa-Rigpa, draws on Ayurvedic practice and Buddhism from India, utilising natural materials such as herbs and minerals. An important way of delivering these natural medical substances is in the form of aromatic incense, and the Tibetan style is famous for its complex formulae that are handed down in a ‘lineage’, often originating in monasteries and Buddhist colleges such as the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in western Sichuan, also on the Tea Horse Road. In Benzilan, a short walk from the LUX* hotel, is the family-run Naichen Kawakarpo incense workshop where, true to Tibetan tradition, pure incense free from any artificial materials (not even a central stick) is hand crafted. The principal ingredients are Purple and White Sandalwood, saffron, amber and Borneol (which is also used in traditional Chinese moxibustion), carefully sourced, with the sandalwood collected from the slopes of one of Tibet’s most sacred mountains, Kawakarpo, some 60 km northwest from here. Indeed, the Tibetan name for the mountain range that Kawakarpo towers over is Menri, meaning the Mountains of Medicinal Herbs. As the makers say of the red incense stick, “It is a force for good and a protection against evil spirits. It also can produce an effect toward clear vision, refreshment and get away from tiredness.”