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Chinese Perfume Pouch, a Traditional Personal Adornment


Chinese perfume pouch, also commonly called Xiangnang, Xiangbao or Hebao, is a traditional hand-made personal adornment with a pleasing fragrance. It takes a wide variety of shapes, and it is always small and exquisite. It not only is a delicate work of art, but also has some preventive power against diseases.




The history of the Chinese perfume pouch can be traced back to the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month. It is said that people in ancient times used to carry a medicine bag while hunting to drive out poisonous insects.


Another old saying goes that when Qu Yuan, the great poet of the Chu state during the Warring States Period, drowned himself in Miluo River on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, people in the neighboring Qin, out of sympathy for him and to cherish his memory, made and carried a pouch stuffed with sweet grass and perfumes that he had loved.




A smart design, a piece of fine cloth, colorful strings, traditional Chinese style, pleasant smell, all that make the Chinese Perfume Pouch nothing but special.


Decorations embroidered on it range from floral and small animal such as bird and fish designs to patterns of musical instruments, books, utensils and romantic figures, depending on the make’s aesthetic taste.





During the Tang Dynasty, women in the rural areas would in the 4th lunar month each year begin to make perfume pouch with colored silk, silk threads and gold and silver beads. By the Qing Dynasty, perfume pouch was carried every day, because the Manchus had long had that custom that emperors and empresses were required to carry perfume pouch on them all year round and at the end of every year, or on important festivals, the emperor would award the princes and ministers each a perfume pouch to show his favor for them.


Common people make an even more extensive use of the perfume pouch. Men and women, old and young all can carry one on them and present it to others as a gift. There are many descriptions of this practice in the Chinese classic novel A Dream of Red Mansions. Some young men and women often use it as a token of love, like Xiuqu.


Today, as the development of human society and the advance of science march forever forward, the perfume pouch loses some of its original functions. But it remains in the favor of many. It is still a valued gift to be exchanged between lovers.

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