The ritual of incense burning served not only a spiritual element but it facilitated other more practical purposes such as the fumigation of clothes. From the Song dynasty onwards, censers became increasingly popular paraphernalia for the scholar's studio as the burning of incense was thought to enchance the clarity of mind. It was a tradition to burn incense nearby when scholars played the qin, a seven string musical instrument. Such a depiction is found on a Song dynasty hanging scroll in the Palace Museum Beijing, entitled 'Listening to the Qin', illustrated in Zhongguo Jujiang Meishu Conghua, Forbidden City Press, 1998, p. 21; for a detailed illustration of the qin player, reputedly to be the Song Emperor Huizong, beside a censer emanating smoke, see op. cit., p. 22.
Compare a white jade set in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Zhongguo Yuqi Quanji, Qing Dynasty, vol. 6, Beijing, 1991, p. 60, no. 92.
Other examples of jade incense garnitures from the National Palace Museum, Taibei, have been included in the Special Exhibition of Incense Burners and Perfumers Throughout the Dynasties, January 1994, illustrated in the Catalogue, nos. 84 and 85. The circular box is for the storage of incense either in strip, coil or pellet form whilst the tool vase is used to accommodate implements such as chopsticks and spatula to rake or smooth the bed of ashes placed in the censer. Garnitures were also produced using other materials. Compare incense sets of champlev/ae enamel, Canton enamel and ceramic in imitation of bronze, illustrated op. cit., nos. 86, 88, and 89 respectively. Compare a white jade set in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Zhongguo Yuqi Quanji, Qing Dynasty, vol. 6, no. 92.