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A Legacy of the Spice Trade
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  • Pu Lianggong smells raw materials for making incense to judge their quality on March 29
  • Pu showcases his finished products
  • Pu displays incense-making techniques
  • Pu teaches the secret of selecting raw materials to his son, who has sold incense to Southeast Asia and Europe through the Internet
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Photos by Xinhua

Pu Lianggong, 63, is the inheritor of the local incense-making skills in Yongchun County, Quanzhou City of southeast China’s Fujian Province.

With a long history, Yongchun incense is made of hundreds of Chinese herbs using ancient techniques. The production needs to go through over 10 procedures and requires exquisite skills. Pu has always adhered to the traditional techniques to preserve this intangible cultural heritage.

"The Belt and Road Initiative has brought unprecedented opportunities to the local incense-making industry, which has been passed down over generations. We will grasp this opportunity to introduce our incense culture and products abroad,” said Pu.

Quanzhou became an important port in the East during the Song (960-1279) and Yuan Dynasties (1271-1368), when China’s seaborne trade thrived. Pu’s Arabian ancestors brought spices with them along the ancient maritime Silk Road and settled in Quanzhou to trade in spices. At the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the beginning of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), descendants of those Arabian traders began the tradition of incense making by using local bamboo and spices to make and sell incense for a living.

In the following three centuries or so, incense making has taken root and flourished. Presently, there are nearly 300 incense-producing factories in Yongchun, over 30,000 incense makers and more than 300 kinds of product. Yongchun incense is listed as a nationally protected regional product.

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