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Cultures of Perfumery in Asia

Press Release No. 281/2010
19 November 2010
International workshop on the cultural history of perfume


“Perfumery and Ritual in Asia” is the subject of an international workshop taking place from 28 to 30 November 2010 at Heidelberg University. The workshop has been organised by Heidelberg’s Collaborative Research Centre “Ritual Dynamics”. Renowned Asian studies experts will join scientists and curators to cast light on the cultural history of perfumery, with a special focus on the use of aromatics in rituals.

The organiser of the workshop, Dinah Jung, remarks, "Though the heritage is obviously a rich one, the Asian perfumery arts have rarely been given academic attention.” Her momentary research interest centres on aromatics in South-/East Asia. The participants of the workshop will discuss the cultural significance of perfumery by thematising the traditional use of aromatic materials and their role in rituals. There will be a special focus on the fine art of producing and refining perfumes and its historical development in the various Asian regions. The workshop discussions will elucidate cultural exchange and mutual influences between the different perfumery arts. In addition, a poster exhibition will provide information on topical facets of the global perfumery business. 

A special highlight of the workshop will be the performance of a Japanese kōdō ritual by Prof. Satoru Horiguchi from the Ibaraki Christian University in Hitachi. In this ceremony, incense is burnt with the purpose of recognising the specific aromatic materials used and associating poetic ideas with the fragrances. “The conscious perception of fragrances trains the mind and the spirit,” Dinah Jung states, “The ritual also had an important social function in East Asian society."

The workshop “Perfumery and Ritual: The Use of Incense, Flowers, Distillates and Aromatic Objects in Asia” will be conducted in English at the Internationales Wissenschaftsforum Heidelberg. The meeting takes place in the framework of the research project “Olfactory Elements in Chinese Rituals” headed by Prof. Dr. Lothar Ledderose and part of the Collaborative Research Centre “Ritual Dynamics”.

The workshop opens on 28 November with a slide show on the nature poetry of the Sufi mystic Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi, who is famous for his poetic citations of aromatic flowers and plants. It is accompanied by the Persian music group Avaye Iran from Heidelberg. The show begins at 5.30 pm and takes place at the Internationales Wissenschaftsforum Heidelberg (Hauptstrasse 242). The complete programme is available at

Dr. des. Dinah Jung

Communications and Marketing
Press Office, phone: +49 6221 542311

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