Not to be sniffed at!

Sweet scents have long featured in Chinese and Japanese cultures – the carrying of scent bottles, the use of flowers and the perfection of flower arranging, and utilising censers or koros to fill a space with pleasing smells. It is this last one, the use of censers, on which this short article focuses.


With a history stretching back around 4000 years, the earliest discovered censer was found in Liangzhu, Eastern China. Perhaps most recognisable today is the round open censer of bombe form. Often twin handled and raised on three feet, the open ‘mouth’ of the censer allows the scent to rise upwards. The scent itself was important and served a purpose across centuries when air conditioning was not an option. But the symbolism of rising incense should also be noted – as an aid to one’s journey towards immortality.


With religious and ceremonial purposes, as well as practical, the censer continues to enjoy popularity at auction. The Asian Works of Art Auction (11 October) features some fine examples, with estimates starting from under £100. With all eyes on this international auction, these censers are sure to enjoy the sweet smell of success.  

Click to view the catalogue now >>

Magda Ketterer

Come along to the Valuation Days at McTear’s on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week for complimentary auction advice.


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