Sounds from beyond: Documents collaborates with Greatroam on incense burner

Key takeaways:

  • Chinese high-end fragrance maker Documents and designer funeral product brand Greatroam team up on a conch-shaped incense burner for Qingming or Tomb-sweeping Festival.
  • Greatroam brings aesthetic designs to funerals and interments that incorporate traditional Chinese design philosophy but also reflect changing attitudes to death among the young.
  • Documents is one of the most-watched brands in New Chinese Style fragrance and its “Bold Zen” philosophy markets directly to the young who are artistic-minded, and attracted to the guochao 3.0 traditional Chinese aesthetics.

As guochao 3.0, exemplified by New Chinese Style fashion and design continue to capture the imagination of Chinese consumers, solar terms are becoming increasingly important dates on the marketing calendar. This Qingming, two highly regarded New Chinese Style designer brands, Documents and Greatroam joined forces to show us a new possibility in Qingming campaigns, with a conch-shaped incense burner.

The Conch

The Qingming collaboration came in the form of a white porcelain incense burner, which takes the shape of a conch. Because Qingming (清明) can literally be translated as “clear and bright”; the design of the conch is sleek with a clean white colour. The incense is an important part of Chinese spirituality and has a strong association with Qingming, or Tomb-sweeping Festival as a way of commemorating and communicating with the dead.

The incense is an important part of Chinese spirituality and has a strong association with Qingming

Documents and Greatroam shared that the conch signifies the sound from beyond, as “the most romantic thing you heard as a child”, hearing the sounds of the ocean in a conch. The mysterious noise when putting your ear against a conch sparks many romantic imaginations. The brands also acknowledge the conch as a sign of auspiciousness. This most likely comes from Buddhism, where the conch, or shankha in Sanskrit, is one of the eight auspicious symbols, or Ashtamangala.

Both Greatroam and Documents share an affinity with Buddhism, with the former basing its idea on reincarnation while the latter hinges on what the brand calls “Bold Zen” (禅酷), a combination of traditional and new Chinese culture, aesthetics and philosophy in perfumes, scents and lifestyle.

Greatroam and deathcare

Greatroam was established in 2023 by FNJI founder Gao Guqi. It calls itself a “funeral and interment product design brand”. Gao started the brand after losing both his parents during the pandemic but found current funeral and interment products lacking in design and aesthetic. He wants to bring dignity and style to both the deceased and the deprived.

Traditionally, death and funerals are taboo topics in China and not usually brought up unless necessary. Yet recently, as the younger generations have started to experience the death of people close to them, be it family or friends, people have started to talk about death and its many implications more openly.

Just before Qingming this year, netizens noticed a café called “摆渡人” (lit. Ferryman, or Charon) in Shanghai. It’s modelled after the “Death Café” in London, where visitors drink coffee and share stories and thoughts on death and mourning. However, the Ferryman Café is run by funeral home staff and the beverages come free of charge, in exchange for your story or thoughts about death. You can also ask for a consultation with funeral planners and make arrangements at these 8 branches of the coffee shop.

Many people today prefer being prepared than refusing to talk about death and funerals. Greatroam released a podcast providing guidance for funerals and memorials to young people trying to mentally prepare for death or mourning. It also has plans for a line of clothing for the deceased as well as a shop.

Many people today prefer being prepared than refusing to talk about death and funerals

Documents and solar term campaigns

Apart from the Greatroam collaboration, the Chinese-style fragrance brand also launched its own Qingming product and campaign. The new seasonal scent is called “Loose” and is designed to loosen the spirit and soul. Qingming has a strong association with spirit, so the perfume aims to help reach the spiritual level and loosen up the user. At the same time, since Qingming falls in springtime, the scent is heavily inspired by the outdoors and flora. It also aims to bring a sense of chill, “not just the spiritual one” with its floral and woody notes.

As one of the banner-bearers for New Chinese Style, the brand has been making seasonal releases to coincide with solar terms regularly. For example, its perfume “Sensitive” for the spring equinox, or Chunfen, reflects the spring with floral and fruity notes, but also the even balance of day and night of the equinox. Each release includes a campaign video, embodying the sense and aesthetics of the season and the product.

Documents had just secured a multi-million-dollar investment from high-end beauty brand operator Ushopal Group this January. Documents are known not only for their Chinese notes such as star anise and magnolia but for its high prices, offline concept stores from a library-themed store to a traditional wedding-themed space. Interestingly, Documents also recently launched a podcast about stories of scents.

By evoking traditional aesthetics and symbolism, the brands appeal to a young, artistic-minded audience

The collaboration between the two New Chinese Style designer brands is not only an aesthetic statement but also a thought-provoking experiment of Qingming marketing by reflecting the changing attitude towards death and funerals among younger consumers. By evoking traditional aesthetics and symbolism, the two brands appeal to a young, artistic-minded audience who are keen on the guochao trend.