I. Aquilaria agallocha Roxb. in Korea

There are several reasons why A.A.R. has never been really well-known in Korea. First, the supply was very limited due to the fact that it was imported through Japan and China, who purchased A.A.R. from southeast Asia. And secondly, it was exclusively owned and utilized by kings. Even the highest level officers and members of the elite did not have access to A.A.R. unless there was special permission granted by the kings.

Historical anecdotes:

(1) Samguk Sagi (History of Three Kingdoms)

Silla King Hyun-Duk (919 AD)

The king, Silla King Hyun-Duk (919 AD) declared A.A.R. to be a very precious imported product, thereby banning all people, including high level autocrats, from using A.A.R.

(2) Koryo Sa (History of Koryo Dynasty)

  • Medicine and Diplomatic Present: Koryo King Mun-Jong used A.A.R. for medicinal purposes. He was suffering from rheumatism, due to his old age, and he had tried all other possible treatments from the best doctors in Koryo. However, his illness steadily worsened due to ineffective medication. As a last resort, he asked the emperor of Song in China for One-hundred different kinds of medicinal materials. Song emperor responded by sending his personal doctor, the different kinds of medicinal matierals, along with eighty-eight diplomatic delegates. On the list of medicines, A.A.R. was listed as the first item on the list for its potency. (Book 9)

  • Diplomatic Gift: A.A.R. was used as a diplomatic gift when Song and Jin had been in a war for over a hundred years. Song has constantly sent gifts to Koryo in order to persuade Koryo join in the war effort as an ally. Once, when Song emperor ordered Hsu, Delong to send diplomatic gifts to Koryo, he secretly ordered Hsu to send A.A.R. packed in both a silver and a gold box.(Book 18)

  • A.A.R. Sculpture: King I-Wu ordered artists to use A.A.R. to carve a statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (the Goddess of Mercy).
    (Book 17)

(3) Choson Silrok (History of Choson Dynasty)

  • Extremely Precious Medicine: (1431 AD) King Sejong discussed with his officers about the importance of securing the supply of medicinal materials. He said, ¡§Dryobalanops aromatica Gaertn and Cinnabar are very precious medicinal materials but those two items are still available in China, but A.A.R. is so precious that it¡¦s hard to find even in China. In the past, Japanese merchants often came to our courtries to sell A.A.R. They stopped selling A.A.R. to us because we paid them so little. A.A.R. does not originate in Japan so Japanese merchants have to pruchase it from a very distant place. Therefore, we should buy A.A.R. regardless of the price. (Sejong 14, Book 3, pp.421)¡¨

  • King's favorite item: (1493 AD) Many officers thought that Japanese merchants gained too much excess profits from trading with Korea. Therefore, officers asked the king to ban all the trade with Japanese merchants. King Seung-Jong replied: Except A.A.R. and Dryobalanops aromatica Gaerin, ban all trade with Japanese merchants. For these two items, you have to buy them regardless of the price. (Seung-Jong 25, Book 12, pp. 546)

  • King's worship item: (1804 AD) In Insan palace, one was to offer sacrifices to the spirits five different items. Only when the King himself offered the worship, A.A.R. was used. Otherwise, other fragrant materials were sued in stead. (Soon-Jo 5, Book 47, pp. 505)

  • Crown prince's (Heir to the throne) Bead: (1541 AD) Joong-jong¡¦ crown prince lost a set of bead made by A.A.R. The lost of the bead did not worry him for he knew that the stolen bead will eventually be sold back to palace and return to his hand due to its priceless value. Later, the lost A.A.R. beads indeed returned to the crown prince. (Joong-Jong 36, Book 18, pp.442)

  • The scarcity of A.A.R: (1524 AD) Prime minister Kim, Jen was serious ill and had lost consciousness several times in a week. A prescription called "A.A.R. downing Qi" was required to cure Prime Minister's illness. However, he was not able to find the precious A.A.R. in the market. After hearing this news, king Joong-Jong ordered to sent A.A.R., along with his doctors, to the prime minister. (Joong-Jong 18, Book 16, pp.193)

  • King's admiration of A.A.R. Buddha. Statue: (1458 AD)Se-Jo sent Buddhist Sutra to Japanese emperor. In the letter he wrote to the Japanese emperor, Se-jo requested a beautifully crafted A.A.R. Buddha statue. (Sejo 3, Book 7, pp. 200)

  • Dance and Building: (1615 AD)Dance that describes the beauty of A.A.R had been developed. Also, king¡¦s palace is named after A.A.R. (Kwang-hea 7, Book 32, pp. 402/466)

  • A.A.R. color: In both Korea and China, A.A.R. color (dark green) had been widely used on the attire of Kings and Queens. It had also been used for painting the palace. (Many place in Silok)

  • Decoration: Generally used as the best gifts kings gives to his officials. Items include belts, musical instruments, clothes, and boxes.

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