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A very rare Vietnamese qinan incense wood formation. Estimate HK$5,000,000 – HK$7,000,000 ($647,521 – $906,529). Price Realized HK$5,440,000 ($704,786). Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014.

The naturally formed wood has largely decayed, and has been meticulously trimmed to leave the densely formed dark and fragrant resin. It has a sweet scent with a strong peppery tone. 18 1/2 in. (47.7 cm.), 541 g


NoteChenxiang and qinan are essentially the same type of resinous substances, produced by certain trees in the subtropical and tropical regions as a self-defense/healing mechanism when injured or infected. The highest grade of chenxiang/qinan, however, was the result of the wood, for reasons unknown, producing so much of these resins that they eventually choke the life out of the tree. As the tree fibers disintegrate, the resinous substances remain and mature while exposed to the elements. These substances produce strong, complex aromas which have been admired by different cultures through the centuries. While in many other cultures they were mainly used in religious ceremonies, it was in China that they were appreciated in their own right. They were so prized in the Song period that they were already said to be worth their weight in gold, and many poems were written alluding to their quality. For an introduction to these rare types of wood, see p. 40 in the present catalogue. Refer also a chenxiang wood formation offered as lot 2918 and qinan wood offered as lot 2955.

CHRISTIE’S. DRAWN BY THE SENSES, 26 November 2014, Convention Hall