An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Xiangsheng 香乘

Mar 19, 2024 © Ulrich Theobald

Xiangsheng 香乘 "A history of fragrances" was compiled during the late Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Zhou Jiazhou 周嘉胄 (1582-c.1658), courtesy name Jiangzuo 江左, from Yangzhou 揚州, Jiangsu.

The first version of the text, finished in 1618, had a length of 13 juan, and had a preface written by Li Weizhen 李維禎. The usual version with a length of 28 juan was finished in 1641, and bears a preface and afterword written by the author himself.

Figure 1. Odorous substances or incense pressed into decorated round bricks
From the chapter Yinxiang tu 印香圖. Siku quanshu 四庫全書 edition.

Fascicles 1-5 present an overview of various types of fragrant substances, with more then 180 entries that provide information about material nature, characteristics, and application, the place of origin, and their history. In the chapters 9 and 10, fragrant substances are classified according to their nature, namely "astronomical" odours (tianwen xiang 天文香, like wind, rain or dew), "geographical odours" (dili xiang 地理香, like wells, earth, etc.), substances of plants (caomu xiang 草木香), such made of animals (niaoshou xiang 鳥獸香), such in buildings of palaces (gongshi xiang 宮室香), of the human body (shenti xiang 身體香), for diet (yinshi xiang 飲食香, like spices), and for tools and objects (qiju xiang 器具香).

The Xiangsheng is a very rich collection of information on various types of fragranced, organised in a clear way, and a comprehensive matter.

The book is included in the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

Table 1. Contents of the Xiangsheng 香乘
1-5 香品(隨品, 附事實) Classes of fragrances (history, character, origins, application)
6 佛藏諸香 Fragrances used in Buddhist temples
7 宫掖諸香 Fragrances used in the imperial palaces (through history)
8 香異 Extraordinary fragrances
9-10 香事分類 Types of fragrances
11-12 香事别録 Stories around fragrances
13 香緒餘 More petty matters concerning fragrances
14-17 法和衆妙香 Marvellous fragrances in history
18 凝合花香 Recipes for blends of fragrances
19 熏佩之香 Recipes for odours of practical use in bags
塗傅之香 Recipes for odours to put on the body and the surface of objects
20 香屬 Matters around fragrances (cakes, coal, pearls, medicine, tea, etc.)
21 印香方 Methods of pressing incense bricks
22 印香圖 Illustrations of pressed incense bricks
23 晦齋香譜 Huizhai xiangpu "Notes on Fragrances from the Dark Study"
24 墨娥小録·香譜 Chapter Xiangpu "Fragrances" from the Mo'e xiaolu "Small Records of the Ink Moth"
25 獵香新譜 Laxiang xinpu "New book on wax and fragrances"
26 香爐類 Incense burners and similar objects
27 香詩彙 Poetry on fragrances
28 香文彙 Prose writings on fragrances
Du Xindi 杜鑫狄, Du Fangfang 杜芳芳 (2022). "Cong Zhou Jiazhou Xiangsheng zhong qianxi xiang wenhua fazhan ji dangdai jiazhi 從周嘉胄《香乘》中淺析“香”文化發展及當代價值", Hanzi wenhua 漢字文化, 2022 (24): 168-170.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1856.
Ma Shouren 馬守仁, Zheng Ruyan 鄭如嫣 (2009). "Chadao yu Xiangsheng 茶道與香乘", Nongye kaogu 農業考古, 2009 (5): 70-71+85.
Mao Yingqi 茅瑛琦 et al. (2019). “You Xiangsheng tantao xiangyao shesheng gongxiao 由《香乘》探討香藥攝生功效", Jiangsu Zhongyiyao 江蘇中醫藥, 51 (12): 75-78.
蜀漢 (221-263)