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April 16, 2020 4 min read

  • "Come here, Trent, I got something to show you." N, an experienced agarwood trader called me over.
  • "What is it?" I asked

N showed me a small piece of agarwood. He broke a small part at the end of this wood and kept on his left hand.

He reached his left pocket on his shirt with his right hand. Slowly, he took out a lighter and lit. He held the lighter on his right hand.

Steadily, he moved the flame to his left hand, which was holding the small broken sample. 

As soon as the flame contacted with that piece of wood, a thin vertical smoke appeared. He released the lighter gas trigger to "turn off" the spark.

  • "How do you feel?" N asked


  • "Full of flavour, very nice" I answered.


  • "This agarwood piece was not collected from the tree" He began.


  • "What do you mean?"

N continued

  • "The hunter found it buried under the ground with a few others. It was a special piece, so keep it."


The above conversation took place several years ago in District 5, HCM City.

It was at the back of my mind until today; I saw an article about Perfumery Plant Materials. There was one part that triggered my memory. And I would like to share it with you.


Source: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, THIRD SERIES, Vol. 23, No. 1, Special Issue: Perfumery and Ritual in Asia (JANUARY 2013), pp. 39-52

"The ancient Chinese believed that burying pieces of agarwood tree in damp sand would make the woody part decompose and separate from the heartwood agar" (Grami 2013).

This sentence reminded me of another book  "Agarwood: Science Behind the Fragrance" by Mohamed 2016 page 162


So, the hunter found it "underground" and based on the "Chinese Classification". It matched with "Type 2" 土沉 ( tŭ chén ), or "soiled agarwood".

The scent in "Fragrance degree" mentioned "Heavy mellowness". 

While I was not sure what it really meant as the scent is difficult to describe in words, personally, I could feel the aroma from this piece of wood. It was complexed, and the scent was "deep" and "full of flavour".

The scent was unforgettable, but there was one thing that inspired me even more than the scent. And it is the meaning of the below poetry.


"Not every kind of wood may become ud
Even if you bury it under beach sand."

The author explained further "Not everyone is capable of change."


What makes it so inspirational?

You see

Agarwood only forms when something "harmful" attacks the tree. When the attack happened,  agarwood became part of the wood permanently. The more the attacks took place, the more of the agarwood.

The older the agarwood, the more precious it became.

And when it was buried on the ground, most of the white wood decomposed, only the juiciest part remained: resin or agarwood.

If you buried a different type of wood rather than agawood, you would not have the same result.



Because the wood itself will be decomposed. But the resin (agarwood) stays much longer than the wood.


We all have our "agarwood" inside our body.

My uncle is a chef, and his hands are full of scars from many of the burn marks. He has never tried to hide. In contrast, he is very proud of it.

He told me that every scar on his hand represented a different story and the lesson he learnt. So to him, his scars represented experiences just like a high-raking officer with may "stars" on his shoulder

His scars are his "human agarwood".

Also, he met many apprentices; some quit after a few lessons. The one who gave up did not have the spirit to keep going.

They don't develop the "agarwood" inside them.

I am sure you have experienced this too.

Think of a time you were facing problems, challenges and setback.

How did you overcome? 

So for me, I always remind myself that I have an "agarwood spirit" inside my body, and I will summon it when I need strength to overcome.


And I am a visual person.


So it makes sense for me to wear an agarwood bracelet to inspire with its story. To tell me that after the difficult times, there will be a reward waiting.


I share this story with many of my friends. And many of them are now wearing agarwood mala or bracelets.

And you don't have to be religious to wear them 


So I have a question for you

If the agarwood story inspired you, would it make sense to share with the people you love?


Anyway, keep fighting my friends to get what you want in your life.



Just in case if you have not seen what white woods look like, I will have an image for you.


These white woods are from our plantations; we use them as "firewood" to fuel the oil distillation because we have scrapped out the most resinous parts.



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