About the Frankincense 2020

When a tree is in its seedlings, does it have a chance to determine its final form and move towards its goal? Is there a chance to decide the time of leaf fall and the number of results? Humans saw this tree, standardized its shape, and determined its purpose. Thousands of years ago, we cut from the bark of the Boswellia and observed the milk-like sap slowly seeping from the wound of the trunk. And we finally choose the yellowish with little reddish translucent clot and full and pure color, and finally, condense it into frankincense. This plant-produced fragrance resin has gone through a long journey of region and civilization, spreading from Eastern and Western religious occasions to various industries in the post-industrial era, and is refined into essential oils and beverages for human use.

In the 11th century AD, with the establishment of the "Maritime Silk Road" (also known as the "Maritime Frankincense Road"), Oman exported dozens to hundreds of tons of frankincense to China every year. In the early Northern Song Dynasty, Chen Hongjin sent an envoy from Quanzhou in December of the first year of Qiande (963), "giving thousands of platinum, frankincense, tea, and medicine for tribute." When the Catholic holy minister and the golden Phoenix of the Daxiong Hall, breathe this together, do believers who bow down and salute want to destroy each other's doctrine? These untraceable psychological activities make me wonder about the subtle changes in the spread of the spice source; is it being refined by human beings, just like me, being screened and trimmed by current cultural information? Will I have the opportunity to shape the form of my inner desire, abandon the shackles of history, doctrine, and place, and join this "useless thing" that is juxtaposed with gold and silver for worship, and get involved in power, lust, religious fantasy, and spiritual thinking?

However, the production method of frankincense has never changed since the third and fourth centuries AD. At the end of 2019, I checked the information on the picking method of frankincense at my home in Wuhan, trying to use this as a reference method to find a way to get rid of the foreign objects and let the body emerge from the heart. Is there any trace of this spice in the city where I live? It seems not. Looking back after the Second Opium War, Hankou became known to the world as a "traffic port opened under an unequal treaty" and became clamorous. After that, Zhang Zhidong set up the Hanyang Iron Factory, the disease of horse-reading field (Yue Ma Chang) broke out, the Soviet Union aided the construction of the Yangtze River Bridge, the Warring States bronzes buried in the soil was dug out and exhibited in the Museum, and the sharp ancient sword was unsheathed. Up to this moment, the epidemic was raging outside the window and everything was silent.

In the dusty historical air, the flood of machine noise, the red memory of the group, and the extension of individual desires reverberated during the once silent epidemic period, just like the vigorous and sad harmony in history and space. With rapid development, Wuhan and even the whole of China have experienced steel surplus caused by urbanization and economic slowdown. The factory, the waste, and the molten steel symbolizing mighty force and brutality brought me back to the realm of creation of ready-made objects, absorbing the swelling city message like a sponge. The traces of the sculpture are mixed with the scars of people and history, and abandoned historical fragments are spliced in the cast gangrene to recombine the image of chaos.

Before the epidemic, I went to the Pompeii ruins in Naples. In the 19th century, people invented a technique to vividly reproduce the faces that experienced the moment of death: plaster was filled into the space left by the decomposition of the flesh and clothing, and the faces and the corpse cavity of the victims were showed by plaster. (The Pompeians were killed by the toxic gas emitted by the volcanic eruption. The volcanic ash precipitated and became the outer shell of the corpse. Over time, the corpse had dissipated and the volcanic ash solidified so that the outline of the corpse was preserved.) These charred remains confirm the destruction of civilization and demise.

Am I going across the ocean like frankincense and still in shape?
ⓒ 2024 Tingting Cheng