The journey of incense sticks

HCMC - To Vietnamese, burning incense is the traditional ritual meant to build a bridge between the visible life of the present generation and the spiritual world of gods and past generations. No matter the cult, a burning incense is the first thing to do to establish an environment conducive to spiritual elevation and attract gods or spirits attention.

A woman is burning incense sticks at a Buddhist temple in HCMC – PHOTOS: ADRIEN JEAN
Bamboo is cut into small stick

This traditional practice is done both at home on the ancestors’ altar and worshiping place, particularly pagodas,  on the most important days of the lunar calendar (1st and 15th days of lunar month), as well as on the death anniversary of a loved one or on a baby’s birth, and of course for Tet, the Lunar New Year.  It is part of people’s daily life and, so to speak, of the country’s cultural identity.

Incense and long circular sticks are burning in a temple in HCMC’s District 1

In the following photo essay pictured in HCMC, the whole process of incense production—from chopping bamboo rods into small pieces to the final packaging—is way more complicated than one may think and requires dedication at each stage.

Incense sticks are dipped into colorful dyes until the right shade of the desired color is achieved
A young man is collecting dry incense sticks. After being dyed, these small bamboo sticks will be sun-dried
In this phase, powder is mixed with other ingredients to make the final burning powder
Burning paste is added to the dry incense sticks
The burning part is applied to dry incense sticks
Incense sticks are spread out so that they can become dry quicker
Dry incense sticks are gathered…
… and sorted out to pick the good sticks from broken ones