Hong Kong (PRWEB) May 26, 2014
On Friday the 9th of May, Asia Plantation Capital’s Hong Kong team was proud to sponsor the annual visit from Japan of Mr. Souhitsu Issiken Hachiya.
Mr. Hachiya is the 21st heir apparent Grand Master of the Shino-Ryu school of Kodo (The Japanese art of appreciating Incense) and is widely recognised and respected as an authority on the value and importance of Agarwood (Also known as Aloeswood in Hong Kong) in Asian culture.
Mr. Hachiya and his family perform ceremonies for Japan’s Royal Family, and are regularly invited around the world by other members of royalty, governments and academic groups to demonstrate the traditional art of incense burning. The art is prominent in Japan and with Buddhists all over the world, especially across India and Southeast Asia.
This is the second year that Asia Plantation Capital has participated in this annual event, designed to facilitate the meeting of minds, and the exchange of knowledge between Japan’s leading authority on Agarwood, and Hong Kong’s own academic community, who have a specific focus on the industry in the Special Administrative Region.
Leading academics from the Chinese University of Hong Kong who attended the day-long event included:-
- Prof. Sidney Cheung - Chairperson, Department of Anthropology
- Ms. Jiting Luo - Executive Office, Institute of Future Cities
- Ms. Leanne Fung - Research Assistant, Institute of Future Cities
- Mr. Rick M.H. Leung - Research Assistant, Department of Anthropology
The day commenced at 10.30 a.m. with a meeting at Asia Plantation Capital’s offices located in Wan Chai. A brief welcome and presentation was given by Gerard McGuirk and his team on behalf of Asia Plantation Capital. Gerard expounded on the company’s efforts to lead the way in managing sustainable, commercial Agarwood plantations with extensive operations in Thailand, Sri Lanka and a planned expansion in Malaysia.
Mr. Souhitsu Issiken Hachiya then spoke about the history and importance of Agarwood and incense burning in the cleansing of mind and body. Mr. Hachiya explained how Agarwood has evolved and taken its place in all aspects of Chinese and Japanese culture, including its modern use as a symbol and statement of wealth within the two communities. Many collections, he went on to say, are held by private individuals - including some notable celebrities and businessmen - and are valued in the hundreds of millions of US dollars.
The key points from Mr. Hachiya’s informative and illuminating talk were:-
- Agarwood or Aloeswood has been in Japan for the last 1,400 years, and is widely used in all aspects of life ranging from the spiritual to the cultural. More recently, over the last 50 years in particular, it has become an important ingredient in luxury perfumes, cosmetics, and medicines. Its uses are expanding, and demand for the product is growing on a daily basis – to the extent that the tree itself is being harvested in the wild to the point of near extinction. In fact, since the year 2000, it has been a protected species under the CITES international treaty, and all trade in Agarwood and its products is now strictly controlled. Only proven, sustainably-sourced products from managed plantations are therefore, able to provide the continuity of supply.
- The customs and traditions come from Buddhism, having originated in India, before being spread by Chinese monks.
- Samurai soldiers would use the fragrance derived from Agarwood before going into battle, as they did not want to die smelling badly. They believed the oil in the fragrance heightened their powers as warriors.
- There are now more than 70 schools in Japan seeing a resurgence of Agarwood teachings in their daily curriculums. The next generation of Japanese children are being educated on the importance and significance of Agarwood to the culture and history their country. They are also being made aware of the necessary steps required to ensure a sustainable and ethically sound future for the industry throughout the 21st Century and beyond, such as those practiced by Asia Plantation Capital on their commercial Agarwood plantations.
- Agarwood is used by the Royal Family in Japan on a regular daily basis.
- Some Agarwood pieces are more than 700 years old, and are only seen in public every 10 years.
Agarwood prices have increased by 1000% in the last 10 years, and are currently at the level of around HK$4,000 per gram. This upward trend is continuing, with prices rising almost daily in China and the Middle East.
Due to illegal logging, there are virtually no wild stocks of Agarwood remaining, and the few that do exist have been almost completely removed from the marketplace. Only sustainable plantations, such as those operated and managed by Asia Plantation Capital, can help to meet the global demand.
A good illustration of this is in Hong Kong itself – a place once renowned the world over for the quality of its Agarwood incense trees. These stocks have been all but wiped out in recent years, which is why the pioneering work done in the plantation project managed by Mr. Chan who is known as Hong Kong’s Incense King, in partnership with Asia Plantation Capital, is proving to be such a success. A field trip visit to this plantation project, was made by the group later in the day.
After the presentation, the party went to one of Hong Kong’s national parks, and was guided by Gerard McGuirk. The tour gave the opportunity to show the party Agarwood in its natural environment and to look at areas in which mature trees have been destroyed by poachers. The location of these trees is now a closely guarded secret to help ensure the safety of the few specimens that remain in the wild. Tree thefts had been an almost daily occurrence due to the incredibly high value of the trees themselves.
Afterwards, the group returned to the nearby Asia Plantation Capital Estate which is managed in partnership with Mr. Chan. This jointly managed project was featured in a CNN special report. In recent years Mr. Chan has become a celebrity in Hong Kong and beyond, having been featured regularly on local TV news programs, and globally on a special CNN spotlight documenting the plight of Agarwood trees across Asia and specifically in Hong Kong, where they have been all but wiped out.
On the plantations themselves, the group witnessed the planting of new Agarwood saplings on specially prepared ground. The planting of these saplings marks the next generation of Agarwood production being undertaken in Hong Kong, to maintain stocks and secure the survival of the species in Hong Kong.
The following day the group visited the new Tsz Shan Monastery, which is currently under construction, and has been funded by Li Ka Shing, one of Hong Kong’s most respected businessmen and notable philanthropists.
The monastery is due to open at the end of 2014, and the monastery is close to Asia Plantation Capital’s Hong Kong plantation project. The abbots from the monastery are making plans to bless the plantations - a ceremony that is also carried out at all the company’s plantations in Thailand, symbolizing and signifying the importance of these sustainable plantations in the leading cultures and religions of Southeast Asia.