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“Scent of Time”: A Chinese Costume Drama Breathing Ancient Incense Culture

Culture"Scent of Time": A Chinese Costume Drama Breathing Ancient Incense Culture

Streaming platforms in China are now featuring a compelling new costume drama, “Scent of Time,” produced by Huanyu TV. This intricately woven tale transports viewers back in time, presenting a blend of passionate romance, deep-seated mistakes, and the evocative world of incense making.

Central to the story is Hua Qian, portrayed by the talented Chinese actress Zhou Ye. Hua, the daughter of an incense maker’s supervisor, succumbs to a momentary lapse in judgment driven by her infatuation with Zhong Yelan, a man who unfortunately doesn’t share her feelings. This fleeting obsession results in dire consequences, leading to the downfall of her family. As destiny would have it, Hua finds herself reliving the night of her wedding with Zhong Yelan. Experiencing life’s highs and lows, she comes to a poignant realization about her past misdeeds and resolves to turn over a new leaf.

At the heart of this mesmerizing tale is the evocative world of incense. The show’s director, Bai Yunmo, emphasized the importance of this aromatic element by bringing on board Li Shiliang as a consultant on incense culture. Bai shared insights about the pivotal role incense played in ancient China, especially during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Historically, people would burn incense in various settings, from under their beds to within their carriages, reflecting its ubiquity and significance in their daily routines.

Interestingly, while “Scent of Time” is a work of fiction, it meticulously captures the essence of various Chinese dynasties through its costume and set designs. The costume designer of the show shed light on the history of incense-making, which gained significant momentum during the cosmopolitan Tang Dynasty (618-907). This era marked the introduction of numerous foreign medicinal incenses into China. Consequently, incense evolved into an integral facet of daily life, especially for the aristocracy. This rich history inspired the designer to craft distinct incense products and decorative sachets for the show, embodying the era’s essence.

Art director Yao, while discussing the visual appeal of the drama, mentioned that it resonates with the aesthetic sensibilities of the Song Dynasty. The drama’s visual canvas is imbued with contrasting hues, conjuring a dreamlike ambiance for viewers. Furthermore, the show’s costumes, especially the women’s attire, derive inspiration from ancient artworks. Specifically, the ensemble worn by female characters is modeled after the legendary painting, “Han Xizai’s Night Banquet.” The luxurious silk fabric, chosen for its soft and delicate texture, mirrors the elegance of women depicted in the painting. Yao aims to capture the ethereal charm of these figures, hoping to evoke a sensation akin to “flying without wind” for the viewers. The palette, teeming with rich and vivid colors, further enhances the visual delight, offering a truly immersive experience.

In essence, “Scent of Time” is more than just a drama; it’s a celebration of Chinese heritage, a love letter to its vibrant history, and a testament to the timeless allure of its traditions.


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