HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Did you know that the name "Hong Kong" means "Fragrant Harbor?" The Asian financial hub gets part of its name from an incense tree that's now increasingly rare. And that tree's very existence may be in peril.
Tangled thickets and thirsty mosquitoes safeguard the secret of Koon Wing Chan, a rare 200 year old wild incense tree.
Once a common commodity, today they're rare because of illegal logging. Koon Wing Chan says, "No one in this village knows that this is an incense tree, except me. I love these trees because I grew up with them."
And with his incense plantation, Chan wants to make sure his children do too. Ten thousand hopes now stretch from soil to sun. It's a family business that was his father's and father's father. He says, "This particular farm has around ten thousands trees. My grandfather was the one in the family who started planting these incense trees back in the day. When I was young, I followed him up into the hills to help. Now, I see a lot of incense trees in Hong Kong have (since) been logged, so I want to preserve them."
Chan has another reason. While a mature tree supplies wood for expensive carvings and other fragrant products, Chan says a sapling can sell for more than $600.
His ten thousand trees could bring in millions. That is, if he ever plans to sell.
If you can believe it, there was a time when Hong Kong relied on fragrance more than finance for its economy. And the incense tree was a huge moneymaker from teas, to herbal medicines; even to the fragrant wood itself.
A certain piece of wood can command $125,000. And quality wood is most commonly used to make joss sticks for prayer.
Wing lee sandalwood has been in this business for the past ninety years. About every month, starting with incense powder, water and other special ingredients, employees hand roll the sticks from scratch.
Its most expensive incense goes for $2,500 a kilogram. Business has been good. Li Hua Peng says, "In the past five years, i can see from my shop that there are more customers buying incense wood, because they know more about the functions of incense. The most popular products are the ones that are used for worshipping gods."
In fact, this is how Hong Kong got its name: incense, used primarily for prayer. "Hong" means "fragrant" and "Kong" means "harbor".
Hundreds of years ago, this port city served as a regional supplier of scents as an asian hub for aromatic affairs.
Back in the hills of Hong Kong, Chan hopes people won't forget as he nurtures the city's last incense plantation to save the "Hong" of Hong Kong.