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In China, a lot of great aristocratic families are willingness to pay billions to own a Sua wood tree, a kind of tree “more expensive than gold”.

 

In China, a lot of great aristocratic families are willingness to pay billions to own a Sua wood tree, a kind of tree “more expensive than gold”. Why does this tree have such great value?

Many people believe that Sua wood has a special effect even though the scientific research cannot prove it.

Sua wood, “treasure” of the Kings

The scientific name of red Sua tree is Dalbergia tonkinensis Prain. In Vietnam, red Sua tree is known as red Huynh Dan, Trac Thoi or Hue Moc. In Chinese, red Sua tree is called Hoang Hoa Le Hainan because it’s mainly grown in Hainan.

According to some ancient books as “Bac vat yeu lam” and “Ban muc thap di” Sua wood of Giao Chi people (a land area of Vietnam at present) is the best type of wood. The ancients often crafted red Sua wood to make the thrones, daily utensils, furniture and cabinets for Kings as well as families of the nobility. 

Sua wood was used in China from the Tang Dynasty, and later widely liked during the Ming and Qing. For a long time Chinese have considered Sua wood as one of the most four precious wood, including Tu Dan, Hoang Hoa Le, Ke Si and Thiet Luc. In addition to gold, silver, and jewels, the vassals of Chinese feudal system in the south often pay this precious wood type to the court.

Sua wood is a “panacea”.

Some of the Chinese books as “Trung duoc dai tu dien” and “Ban thao cuong muc” considered that red Sua wood has some certain medical uses such as hemostasis, analgesic, anti-blood pressure, intestinal disease, heart treatment, and blood circulation. An article titled “Why is Hoang Hoa Le Hainan tree more expensive than gold?” posted on Hualimu.net dated Jun 23rd, 2011 explained that Sua wood is very expensive because the Chinese think that it has a great medicinal ability. They said that when Sua wood is used as a pillow, medicine seems to be injected directly into body.

However, Sua wood has just been mentioned to be used as a herb in combination with other medicines to take effect, no any description of method to change Sua wood into medicine or demonstration of herbal benefit of substances in Sua wood has been found.

However, according to Dr. Doan Van Thu, Deputy Director of the Forest Science Institute of Vietnam when interviewed in 2012 by Tuoi Tre newspaper, he said that all the Vietnamese and Chinese experts have not figured out why Sua wood is so expensive as well as has not discovered the value of herbs in this kind of wood.

Sua wood is used to embalm, exorcise?

Currently, it is rumored by many people that red Sua wood is a type of flavoring used by the ancient Chinese to embalm nobility and to make tools to exorcise. However, there is no confirmed information about any Sua wood mummified body found.  

Particularly in Vietnam, the wood used as an embalming in ancient tombs excavated so far has been determined as Hoang Dan Ru, also known as Ngoc Am or San Moc with the scientific name of Cupressus funebris, not red Sua wood. Some experts said that Sua wood cannot be used as flavoring in embalming as rumored because this wood is not the kind of perfume secretion wood.

Red Sua wood has the best durability.

Many people still believe that red Sua wood is the top of precious woods, surpasses Lim (ironwood), Gu (mahogany), Tau and Sen. It has durability, long fragrance. Although soaked in water many years, it has not been absorbent and decayed.

But according to the scientific study of Vietnam, Sua wood is only ranked as group 2, its bearing capacity is not as strong as group 1, Lim (ironwood) and Gu (mahogany). Master Do Van Ban, Head of Plant Resources Department, Forest Science Institute of Vietnam (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development) on Vtc.vn dated May 15th, 2012 said that although red Sua wood is one of beautiful wood, inferior to Trac wood. People considered it as aromatic wood but not as preferred as Giang Huong wood.  

Chinese Sua wood is more expensive than Vietnamese Sua wood

Vietnamese Sua wood is mainly sold to Chinese traders. According to Chinese experts, due to the similarity of natural conditions between Vietnam and Hainan Island in China, Sua wood in Vietnam has features close to Sua wood in Hainan. However, some people believe that Vietnamese Sua wood is not as good as Hainan Sua wood.

Expensive Chinese furniture made from Sua wood

In the 70s of XX century, Sua wood price in China was very cheap, but 2007-2008 it was extremely expensive because this wood is becoming rare and new plants are still young. However, it is mainly Sua wooden antiques designed in the Ming and Qing style. Hualimu.net revealed, to buy a Sua wooden sideboard with square legs, it costs about 5 million yuan. The Xinhuanet said a collapsible chair of the Qing Dynasty costs 4.8 million yuan (about 14 billion).

However, at present the Chinese Sua furniture are almost originated from Vietnam. According to some great merchants in Dong Ky village, Bac Ninh, Sua wood price is very expensive because the Chinese often rumor to buy Sua wood for the purpose of mystical and spiritual healing. They raise prices and may secretly transfer wood back to sell to Vietnamese.

Van Bien (Dan Viet)

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