Art & Culture

Preserving Cultural Heritage: Hometown of Tibetan incense sees transformation

Located on the north shore of Yarlung Zangbo River in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, Toinba township, Nyemo County is the hometown of Tibetan incense.

Toinba is the birthplace of Thumi Sambhota, who is not only the inventor of the Tibetan character but also the founder of the Tibetan incense. Toinba is famous for incense making, which has a history of more than 1,300 years. Tibetan incense is an important representation of Tibetan culture.

Nyemo’s Tibetan incense is used mainly at sacrificial ceremonies and also for mediation and relaxation. The incense is complicatedly blended with more than 30 herbs, including saffron, sandalwood, Chinese usnea and borneol.

Dhongrub is a local Tibetan incense artisan who has been making incense for more than forty years. The incense artisanship of Dhongrub’s family has passed down through four generations. Making Tibetan incense has brought Dhongrub income and other benefits.

Dhongrub is making Tibetan incense sticks. /Screenshot

“My eldest daughter successfully found a job after graduating from college and my youngest daughter is going to the college this year. These are the rewards of the Tibetan incense,” said Dhongrub. His youngest daughter also helps promote Tibetan incense online, letting more people know about its origin and history. 

A client wants to buy some Tibetan incense from Dhongrub. /Screenshot

As Dhongrub’s Tibetan incense business grows, his incense products have been sold inside and outside of Tibet. Since 2006, Nyemo County has promoted Tibetan incense as a main tourist souvenir and set up incense-themed tourism attractions. To help with poverty alleviation, the local government also established a Tibetan incense cooperative where Dhongrub teaches villagers incense artisanship. 

Dhongrub teaches villagers how to make Tibetan incense at the cooperative in Toinba township. /Screenshot 

“Tibetan incense has deeply influenced me, so it became an essential part of my life. I hope to carry on the traditional artisanship of Tibetan incense and develop it so that more and more people will know about Nyemo’s Tibetan incense,” said Dhongrub.     

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