The Sparkling Crystal Herbs Brochure
The Chinese Sparkling Crystal Herbs
with thanks to
LJW Wong Dji-gu, Professor Emeritus, History of Science.
That Chinese herbs in general have medicinal properties is widely known, just as Chinese erudition is widely respected. However in the West the lack of recognition of specifically the sparkling herbs is analogous to the lack of resonance until very recent years of the specific remarkable global voyage undertaken in 1421 at the behest of Emperor Zhu Du. To quote from 1421, The Year China Discovered the World by Gavin Menzies (from the back cover of the Bantam paperback edition, 2003):
"On 8 March 1421, the largest fleet the world had ever seen set sail from China. The ships, some nearly 500 feet long, were under the command of Emperor Zhu Du´s loyal eunuch admirals. . . The voyage would last for two years and by the time the fleet returned, China was beginning its long, self-imposed isolation. . . And so the great ships were left to rot, and the records of their journey destroyed. And with them the knowledge that the Chinese had circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan, reached America seventy years before Columbus, and Australia three hundred and fifty years before Cook."
It is an interesting example of historical "collateral damage" that the sparkling crystal herbs remain to this day virtually unknown in the West.
Of course many innovations have long been acknowledged as Chinese. Silk, gunpowder and paper are examples, as well as attributing the invention of printing to Feng Tao, ca. 1000. (Actually printing was developed in parallel with Korea and Japan, with the earliest printed documents in the latter countries dating between ca. 750 and 770. In contrast, in Europe Johannes Gensfleisch (1399? - 1468), better known as Gutenburg, developed his method in 1450.) Chinese science and technology over the millennia also included extensive medical research, including acupuncture and far more, cf. Needham´s classic work Science and Civilization in China: Volume 6, Biology and Biological Technology, Part 6, Medicine. Emperor Huang-ti has been credited with writing one of the very first Chinese treatises on medicine ca. 1640 BC.
The designations sparkling, crystal and sparkling crystal as applied to herbs are restricted in a way analogous to what applies to wines from the Champagne region of France. The wines produced there, if made in a precisely stipulated way, may be termed Grand Gru Champagne (100%), Premier Cru Champagne (90-99%) or Champagne (80- 89%). France and the EU enforce this restriction vigorously. The legal restrictions are similar for the designations crystal herbs and sparkling crystal herbs. These all must come from a specific region in China, and have been prepared in a precisely stipulated way.
Strictly speaking, all three designations are misnomers. The denotation of the classical Chinese characters is: "healing herb, with the purity of an ice crystal sparkling in the vast stillness of the dawn." The connotation is "fulfillment", "contentment", and "peacefulness". These sentences still do not fully convey the original Mandarin.
The Chinese writing system is extraordinarily rich and complicated. It began well before 2000 BC and by 300 BC had essentially reached the form used today. It has some 50,000 individual logograms (20,000 of which are antiquated), i.e. graphic signs representing "word pictures". To be literate, one needs to know 2000 to 4000 logograms, of which 214 are radicals, or roots, which repeatedly occur, altering their precise meaning according to the context, e.g. ones for wood, fire, water and so forth. The logograms, which are here reduced to "sparkling herb," actually represent the following:"
• rare flowering herb
• gentle healing, (implying restfulness)
• ice crystal, as of an individual snowflake (implying purity)
• reflecting light, in the way a prism or ice crystal does
• vast, unending stillness (implying fulfillment and contentment)
• breaking dawn (implying new beginnings)
This Chinese poem has many versions, the earliest dating to the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD). The version generally accepted as the best has sometimes been falsely attributed to Li Tai-Po (701 -762), who wrote the famous three lyrics eulogizing a Kaiser´s primary wife. (Two of the best known of the many translations are by the German expressionist poet Klabund and by Diethers von den Steinen.) The erroneous attribution of the herbal poem may lie in certain stylistic similarities, both in terms of syntax and calligraphy, between it and the masterpiece of the Li Tai-Po triad. An example would be the logograms that Diether von den Steinen translated as "Tau in Kristallen erglänzt", or "dew in crystals glistening." Hence the casual reader could indeed be misled to believe that the same author, in a lessor effort, was responsible for the anonymous lyric extolling these rarest of herbs. A truly literate Chinese, let alone a scholar, would, of course, scoff.
The use of the sparkling logogram was jealously guarded. One emperor went so far as to proscribe anyone -- in the original Latin sense of the word -- who used these designations, unless the herbs indeed came from that particular small region and had in fact been prepared precisely according to tradition. (The Latin meaning of proscribe is to post or publish the name of a person as condemned to death with his property confiscated by the state.) Given this precedent, the great lengths the Chinese government will go to in order to ensure protecting and limiting the sparkling designations to this very day are not surprising. This instance is an exemplary case of China showing zero tolerance for product piracy.
Of the over twenty thousand herbal plants in China, fewer than 80 yield sparkling herbs. Furthermore, the plants have to be processed strictly according to a tradition akin to Assemblage for the result to be designated a sparkling herb. (Assemblage is the technical term for the procedure that must be followed exactly when mixing the three component wines -- Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier -- in order for the result legally to be called Champagne.) The tradition for the mixing of sparkling herbs goes back over two thousand years.
Because of the meaning of the Chinese logograms, "healing herb, with the purity of an ice crystal sparkling in the vast stillness of dawn", a comparison has sometimes been made to the rare German/Austrian "ice wines", made from grapes which are harvested when frozen. Actually a better comparison would be to call the sparkling herbs the Champagne of herbs. There are, in fact, some striking similarities.
One is that Champagne comes from an area of just 100 square miles in France, and was long famous throughout France before taking the world by storm. The sparkling herbs come from a similarly small region -- and only from this region -- on the lush coastal alluvial plain of one of China's most remote provinces. Twenty odd communities (tiny herbal villages) receive the official 100% price, about another 50 receive 90%, and perhaps another 100 to 200 receive 80%, and that is all.
These numbers are suspiciously like those for the Champagne area, which we suspect reflects an astute policy of the local Chinese government. (Or perhaps some long since forgotten French government official travelling in China happened on this region, and on his return initiated almost the same hierarchy for the Champagne area.) The product must be mixed in a certain way ("Assemblage") and typically consists of three to six or seven herbs in varying proportions from the 80 varieties that are grown. Otherwise they may not, by law, be designated, labeled or sold as sparkling, crystal or sparkling crystal herbs.
Another similarity is that the origin of the mixing concept for Champagne and the sparkling herbs is in both cases somewhat dubiously attributed to an individual. In France, the monk Dom Pérignon (1635-1715) noted that mixing different wines gave a better end result. However the technique was actually perfected in London, beginning about 1700, because of the knowledge of cork there, before being implemented in Champagne, France.
Allegedly the Chinese Emperor Chin Nong sometime around 1700 BC noted the synergetic effect of combining certain herbs according to precise formulas. However to what extent his insight influenced the system later developed by Chinese cenobites for combining selected rare herbs is unknown. In any case, the mixing formulas were meticulously refined and continuously improved for over two thousand years before reaching accepted norms. The value of the finished herbal combinations reflects their rarity and efficacy. They were packed in small bottles of the finest jade. These were then wrapped in silk to protect them from scratches when transported.
Just as Gavin Menzies has attempted to set the historical record straight (cf. the web site www.1421.tv) on the neglected global voyage of 1421, so do we seek to promulgate an awareness of the neglected sparkling crystal herbs. Our products comply with the strict guidelines for both the source of the plants and their preparation according to a two thousand year old tradition. They are packaged in jade bottle wrapped in pure silk to protect them during transportation.
Naturally China is hardly the sole source of herbal remedies. In Indonesia over a 1000 different species of medicinal herbs are highly respected locally. The traditional Hindu system of medicine known as ayurveda is based in part on naturopathy (emphasizing assistance to nature and including the use of herbs, vitamins and salts). In India and Sri Lanka its practitioners use herbs extensively. To give just one South American example, in Peru even the common nasturtium provides an antibiotic. Herbs are, in fact, ubiquitous; nevertheless:
We do not hesitate to proclaim that for centuries -- indeed millennia -- the SPARKLING CRYSTAL herbs have been the finest in China, are so today, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
Should anyone know of any superior herbs elsewhere in the world, please inform us so that we may study and learn from them in order to seek to improve further.
The Chinese Sparkling Crystal Cosmetics
These rare herbs were also used in preparing hand and facial creams, body lotions and fragrances and perfumes for the imperial court. These were not mass produced, but individually mixed for the person using them. No two persons received exactly the same lotion or scent, just as no two snowflake crystals are identical.
These preparations were used in the imperial courts without interruption until the antipenultimate court, that of the 47 year reign of the "imperial widow" Tze Hsi. She advanced to rule when her son Hsiän Fengs (1831 -1861) became Kaiser (in name only) at the age of six. (The last court was that of Pu Yi. He officially became Kaiser in 1908 shortly before his third (!) birthday and abdicated in 1911.) The lotions and perfumes were packaged in jade bottles, or sometimes in jeweled cases, and wrapped in silk for transportation. Here an historical excursion seems appropriate.
A direct comparison with the development of the fine French perfumes, (nowadays mass produced in 55 gallon vats before being packaged for retail sales!) will not be made. (My mother's first language was French, and as a Francophile, she would have found such a comparison presumptuous and superfluous.) My paternal heritage, however, is Scots, and I have no reservations about using England as an historical reference point.
For not hundreds, but thousands of years China was the world's dominant culture and economy. (As late as 1820 China accounted for one third of the global economy, versus six percent today -- and that after the past 20 years of double digit growth!) To clarify the word "dominant" a further quote, with some minor re-writing, is presented from the previously cited work 1421 The Year China Discovered the World, p. 63.
In March 1421, Henry V (1387-1422) married Catherine of Valois in London. The six hundred guests were served salted cod on rounds of stale bread that acted as plates. Henry the V´s library consisted of six handwritten books (printing was unknown in Europe). Catherine de Valois wore neither knickers nor stockings at her wedding. (Her "perfume" is best left undescribed.) As one of Europe's leading monarchs, Henry the V could put an army of five thousand men in the field, armed with swords, pikes, and the feared longbows. When he went to war against France in June of that year, he ferried his army across the Channel in four fishing boasts, carrying a hundred men on each crossing and sailing only in daylight hours.
In December 1404 Emperor Zhu Du commissioned two trusted advisors to lead 2,180 scholars to prepare the Yong-le-Dadian encyclopedia of literature and science. The four thousand volumes were completed some 15 years later, in March 1421, in time for the inauguration of the Forbidden City, which took place some three weeks before Henry the V´s wedding. Zhu Du´s twenty-six thousand guests were served a ten-course banquet on the finest porcelain. His favorite concubine was clad in the finest silks and her jewelry included rubies from Sri Lanka, Persian carnelian, Indian diamonds and Chinese jade. Her perfume contained ambergris from the Pacific, myrrh from Arabia and sandalwood from the Spice Islands. Zhu Du could field an army of one million men armed with guns. He sent his guests home in a fleet of one hundred ships with a complement of thirty thousand men.
In fact, to a cultivated Chinese, medieval Europeans, even the most aristocratic ones, appeared hairy, disease carrying, smelly barbarians. Catherine de Valois would not have stood comparison too favorably with a concubine of the fourth rank from Zhu Du´s court. (The concubines were selected from the innumerable women in the imperial residences, ranging from the equivalent of ladies in waiting to kitchen maids. The Kaiser was consorted by a favorite three of the first rank ("Fei"), nine of the second rank ("Pin"), twenty-seven of the third rank ("Guei Ren") and eighty-one (later reduced to seventy) of the fourth rank ("Tschang Dzai").)
Medical research in China had long extended to dermatology, the study of the skin, and olfactology: the study of fragrance, perfume, scent, incense, redolence and bouquet. These two fields of study in turn led to the development of various lotions and perfumes. Naturally these were based on extracts from the native Chinese flora. Not only is this flora probably the richest in the world, but also the one subjected in its own right to the longest uninterrupted study, cf. Cheng Lei Pen Tshao (Cheng Lei Ben Cao) "Classified Pharmaceutical Natural History," 1468. The flora best suited for the very finest preparations for members of the imperial court included various sparkling herbs as key ingredients.
The Chinese cenobites who so painstakingly developed the sparkling herbs were also interested in their use for lotions and perfumes. These were prepared on an individual basis after a personal consultation, precisely because the herbs had medical qualities. Just as acupuncture is hardly a "massage with needles", but rather a medical procedure, so was such a consultation more akin to an appointment with a dermatologist than one at say, your hair styling saloon, however luxurious it might be. A dermatologist will not prescribe a lotion without having seen the skin condition of the patient any more than the Chinese would have prepared a sparkling lotion -- or perfume --without a prior personal consultation.
Furthermore these perfumes and scented lotions were not prepared for just anyone! People who sweated heavily, had fetid breath, dandruff or similar imperfections were turned away. The delicate, exquisitely refined fragrances would be corrupted by these secondary factors.To provide these fragrances to such an individual would be unworthy, indeed unenthical. There were even guidelines on what fragrances to use with which attire. (Have you ever noticed how certain sweaters soak up the smell of cigarette smoke, but a leather jacket will not?) Hence people typically went to a bathhouse and literally steam cleaned themselves before venturing, this preparation notwithstanding, with some trepidation to their consultation.
Nowadays appointments for consultation may be made at the leading hotels of Shanghai, and also of Singapore, Dubai and Monaco. Chinese herbalists of the firm visit the selected hotels twice a year. A consultation typically runs two to three hours. Afterwards a personal cosmetics line is designed for you, and thereafter you may re-order in the way you prefer. We emphasize that our sparkle certification is the crux of our business. Violating the strict, religiously enforced certification standards would jeopardize our business existence. Hence we adhere to them without deviation, without exception.
Potential customers should note that a tendency towards obesity is frequently associated with a tendency to sweat heavily upon exertion, and that the heavy consumption of alcoholic beverages is associated with fetid breath. Obviously it is inconceivable that anyone who smokes could be accepted as a customer. A single cigarette would overwhelm any fragrance we prepare.
Regrettably some individuals undergo the expense of a trip to one of these hotels, among the finest in the world, only to suffer the embarrassment of being rejected as a customer. These unfortunate individuals, who inevitably are deeply offended by their rejection and the associated loss of face, have included a member of a royal family, professional athletes, prominent political figures and two Hollywood celebrities. Several attempted to offer bribes. In one case the sum proposed was so astonishingly large that the intention appeared to be to acquire the entire firm. (The response was that if an acquisition offer were serious, a formal proposal should be submitted to the board for consideration.) Other individuals threatened litigation, and one, extremely large, individual became so incensed that hotel security had to be called to escort that person out of the building.
Therefor, please, if you have any doubt at all about your appropriateness as a customer, telephone or e-mail for further information. We are happy to arrange video conferencing by way of pre-screening. Your race, creed, color, sex, age (assuming adulthood), and social origins have no role in meeting our criteria, but your pituitary gland and life style do! Rest assured, we prefer acquiring customers to rejecting them. But also be assured that those we reject would only have been wasting their money on our products. They really are "not for everyone".
Given our clientele, we take great pains to respect and ensure privacy. For this reason we maintain a customer service Internet site in the U.S. which uses, at the customer's election, the U.S. PGP version for encrypted communication. This version is prohibited from export. However the international version also offers an excellent level of protection for private use, cf. http://www.pgpi.com/, assuming, of course, that one is not a resident of a country in which its use is illegal.
Naturally no herbs except sparkling herbs are used in any of our products. Two forms of packaging are available. The first consists of jade bottles, and the second of jeweled cases, custom designed to your specifications. All our products are protected in shipping by layers of pure silk.
We do not hesitate to proclaim that for centuries -- indeed millennia -- the hand-mixed, individually prescribed SPARKLING plotions and perfumes have been the finest in China, are so today, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
Should anyone know of any hand-mixed, individually prescribed lotions and perfumes elsewhere in the world that are superior, please inform us so that we may study and learn from them in order to seek to improve further.