The force of nature, the transformational aspects - particularly the seasons - are a source of great wonder for taoists. In Autumn we see the light recede and the darkness advance. Likewise many of the lush greens of nature and vibrant blues of the skies, turn to golden browns and sombre, mysterious, reflective shades of grey.
The fundamental quality of incense and its ability to change from one state to another - from that of a fragrant solid material, into elegant smoke rising up to the heavens - is the reason it is so symbolic to the taoists.
Consider a piece of fruit, that has been bathed in sunlight all summer long, now fallen to the ground. Its life, an imprint, a seed, lays silent, dormant in the earth, waiting for the spring. A blanket of leaves covers the seed, in turn inspiring us to retreat from the high energy of summer and slow down our actions; go inside, nurture and create fertile ground for ideas later to flourish once again.
“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Incense as a symbol of this transformation in nature has come to be known as a direct representation of the Tao. It is a vital aspect in the rituals of worship: incense is lit at the beginning of every service (fa-lu) and at the end of the ceremony the incense is replenished (fu-lu).