of the Asian perfumery heritage

  • Origins over 2–3,000 years ago; specialization of a perfumery art – i.e. skills of conserving and refining the aromatics as well as as appreciating them reverently – over the course of the centuries:

- Simple perfumery practices likely to be found throughout Asia

- Specialization at exclusive locations.

- Transmission of materials, techniques and meanings via land and sea routes.

  • Increasing entanglement with Western influences and business activities since the 16th century.
  • Integration into global markets and business especially since the 1990s (production, sales, consumption – incl. global patents, markets).



Economic size


  • A sizeable multi-billion dollar business.
  • Livelihood means for many local people.

Pharmaceutical significance


  • Affordable medicine for local populations.
  • Ingredient and/or model for industrial medical products.

Traditional cultural meaning


  • Official gesture of respect to the community.
  • Source of gaining insight.
  • Supporting and symbolizing divine qualities and health.
Today's threats
  • Overexploitation and loss of natural resources.
  • Loss of local knowledge and skills.
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text and photos: © dr. dinah jung, 2002-2015. all rights reserved.