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Intoxicating Eastern Perfumes

Published on , by Emmanuel Lincot

In focusing on the subtle art of Chinese perfume, the Musée Cernuschi provides a genuine olfactory discovery: the first to reveal its importance in the Middle Kingdom.

Qing dynasty (17th-20th centuries), openwork perfume burner, gilt bronze, Shanghai... Intoxicating Eastern Perfumes
Qing dynasty (17th-20th centuries), openwork perfume burner, gilt bronze, Shanghai Museum.
© Shanghai Museum
Perfume appears regularly in poems, in the context of freedom in nature (flowers and so on) or seduction, as Frédéric Obringer tells us. An anthropologist at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and the exhibition's scientific adviser, he has translated ancient Chinese recipes on the making and use of incense. Through his remarkable exploratory work, he emphasises the fact that in China "Buddhism helped to make perfumes popular." To document this research, Eric Lefebvre, the museum's director and head of the exhibition committee alongside his opposite number in Shanghai, Li Zhongmou, was keen to show "raw materials, such as sandalwood and agarwood" to shed light on the origin and production of these fragrances. Sometimes from exotic provenances,…
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