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Old Lamps Shed Light through the Time Tunnel

Updated Beijing Time


 

This delicate lamp in a "bird cage" shape is an opium lamp,
also known as a "poison
lamp". [Guangzhou Daily]

 

Lamp collector Fan Hongtao believes every old lamp records its owner's life and experiences.

"Lamps belong to a past we'll never see again, even though they are maybe something fresh in the eyes of children. I am fond of lamps, and I own many special specimens like a porcelain bean-shape lamp, bronze lamp, celadon lamp, iron lamp, kerosene lamp, Mobil lamp, steam lamp, hurricane lamp and more.

"I have found many books about old lamps. During the Spring and Autumn period (770B.C.-476B.C.) and the Warring States period (475B.C.-221B.C.), Chinese people used lamps for lighting, which was recorded on a book "Wu Yuan" by the Ming dynasty writer Luo Yi. The techniques for making lamps changed throughout history from pottery to porcelain, bronze, iron, tin, wood, bamboo and glass.

 

 


The  "Aladdin's Lamp" [Guangzhou Daily]

 

 


Iron lamp made in the late Qing dynasty. [Guangzhou Daily]

 

 "Lamps from the north of China are different from those of the south. Northern lamps are usually made from porcelain and iron and are bulky, while the more delicate and exquisite southern Chinese lamps are made from bronze, tin, wood and bamboo.

"Besides lighting, lamps were used as ornaments during festivals. The revolving scenic lantern was a kind of variegated lamp, which dates back to the Tang dynasty. Cross-ventilation pushes paper characters to revolve, and they cast their shadows on the screen of the lantern which gives it the appearance of a revolving scene. The kerosene lamp was introduced from the West and was usually made of glass, bronze and iron. They were popular for their versatility and adjustable brightness. At that time, both traditional and western style lamps had their advocates, but as the convenient kerosene lamps gained ground, the traditional lamps just faded away.

 

 

 
Ship's lamp [Guangzhou Daily]

 

 

 
The Po Po lamp was commonly used by villagers in
northern China during the last century.
  [Guangzhou Daily]

 

 

 
Mr. Fan Hongtao with his collection of lamps [Guangzhou Daily]

 

"The first lamp in my collection was one called a "Po Po lamp (grandma lamp)", made of iron. This bean-shaped lamp was very common in villages in northern China during the last century. Its design was simple but logical, consisting of three parts, the bowl, holder and plate. It was once the trousseau for girls in the countryside.

"One of my favorites is an "Aladdin's lamp" produced in America in the 19th century, when lamp technology reached a new level. It has a high glass cover which protects your eyes from the strong light. With its modern airiness, delicate carvings and flexible hand wheel, the lamp is just gorgeous. But getting the lamp was a long story!

"Once while on a business trip to Taishan in Guangdong province, I found the kerosene lamp quite by chance. It was called "Yang Deng (Foreign Lamp)" and belonged to old Mr. Yan, who lived in Dongtou village. 80-year-old Mr. Yan was once an overseas Chinese who had worked in the US, and when I stated my purpose for coming, he hesitated. He told me the lamp was brought to China from America by his uncle and had sentimental value to him. But since our first meeting, I visited the old man and made friends with him, and eventually he agreed to sell it to me. Now its become part of my collection."

(Translated by Liu Qiuping and Proofread by David Kellaway)

Source: Guangzhou Daily/ www.lifeofguangzhou.com

Editor: Carrot Chan

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