A central tenant of Chinese culture is the emphasis placed on harmony. Harmony is achieved through balance, through Dao 道, the Natural Way.
All natural phenomenon – tangible and intangible – are categorized into yin and yang; and further correlates to five elements – metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. All five elements are interconnected by 气, the current of life.
A healthy state of being maintains all attributes in equal proportions. Malaise arises when there is an imbalance, which is true for both the world-at-large (eg; war and strife) and the individual (eg; disease and illness).
Traditional Chinese Medicine thus focuses not on the symptoms but the underlying imbalance and promoting the flow of qi, or life current, through the body.
The goal of meditation is calming the mind to regulate the flow of qi within one’s body and achieving balance. Two outward manifestations of this philosophy in everyday life can be seen in the use of tea and incense.
Traditionally, the art of preparing and drinking tea are introspective actions carried out in silence. The steps are methodical and tools standardized. Only after bringing oneself to a calm state can one begin to drink the tea, thus allowing the tea to travel through the body, stimulate the mind and promote active thought leading to harmony.
Incense similarly evolved to become an art unto itself. On the metaphysical level, incense smoke links the human realm with that of the heavens. On the individual level, perfumes in traditional Chinese medicine correlates to the five organs. Incense was thus especially formulated to incorporate different fragrances which once inhaled would flow through the body to help achieve internal balance and external harmony with nature.