Saa’i Timekeeping Chronicles; Incense clocks

Over the centuries, the time has been measured in many ways and by many different time-keeping devices. We have come to a point where the analogue clock is the most widely recognized and used form of measuring time. Personally, I think we’re missing out on some of the great unique devices out there.

A particular device that intrigues me is the incense clock.

During the Song Dynasty in China (960-1279), the incense clock began to become extremely popular and spread to Japan. Through this device, you could tell the time by fragrance rather than a bong or visual representation.

Although they came in many forms, there are two well-known types of incense clocks from this time; the stick incense clock and the powdered incense clock.

The stick incense clock is measured by the known burning rate. Some of the sticks had different fragrances that would change to notify the passing of an hour. Others would have things attached such as weights that would drop to signify the passing of a certain time period. Other than smelling great, these also look amazing.

The powdered incense clocks worked on trails of powder that were then lit, kind of like gunpowder but less explosive.  A trail would be created with this powder which would then be placed on an incense seal, which would then burn out a pattern. The seals would come in different sizes and the length of it would determine how long of a time period it would measure, these devices could last from anything between a few hours to an entire month.

Similarly to the stick incense clock, there would be differently fragranced powders laid out and at the change of time, a different smell would fill the room. I love the idea of this, not only would you be aware of the time but, I’m assuming that you’d also have a great smelling house.

I’m really intrigued by these different scents used, I’m guessing they had to be strong enough that people could tell when a different one had been burnt. But just imagine asking someone the time, and sniffing around to figure it out. It’s incredible.

As much as I adore these concepts and am going to hunt to see whether I can find ones to keep for pretentious aesthetic reasons. I do have to admit that it does sound like a bit of work. I mean what would happen when my hayfever kicks in and my sense of smell goes out the window?

I’ll probably stick to my Saa’i timepiece, for now, I mean it does the job and is just as gorgeous to look at right?