For a competitive insurance quote, call 0208 255 0617 / 07768 865983 or email your details to

Monday, 16 November 2015

The Chinese Lamps That Swallow Smoke

What's the most curious thing unearthed in archaeology this week?

The smoke lamp: A goose-shaped Chinese contraption designed to 'swallow' smoke produced by the burning of wax, which is consequently dissolved by water in its belly.

Two such lamps were this week discovered by archaeologists in China. Dating back to the Western Han Dynasty (roughly 221 - 206 BC) and made of bronze, they preempt the eco-friendly craze by roughly 2200 years - and could teach modern Chinese a thing or two about environmental awareness. 

Bronze lamps were a staple of the Han Dynasty, but these smoke absorbent ones are the first such discovered of their kind. Xin Lixiang, who led the excavation, says that the discoveries are set to change existing conceptions of Han industry.  

The fact that none have been discovered before makes this story particularly - ahem - absorbing; the findings hint at an element of exclusivity in Western Han society. It is likely that the increased production of bronze lamps reduced their price, encouraging more innovative variations of bronze lamps to be devised. 

The ingenious nature of the smoke lamps doesn't stop there. The ability to adjust the brightness of the lamp, a feature not even universally present in modern lamps, was enabled through the use of swinging shades. Furthermore, the whole lamp could be dismantled according to the anatomical parts of the goose, in order that it be preserved and maintained. 

And as with many ancient Chinese innovations, function is complemented by form - which typically draws on beguiling natural imagery:

"It is both an artwork and an example of ancient innovation," said Lixiang, who spoke to Chinese news agency Xinhua. 

The finding was made in a cemetery - Hailhunhou - in Jiangxi Province, itself an archaeological discovery dubbed the most "complete Western Han Dynasty cemetery" yet discovered in China by 

Excavations at the site first began in 2011, and the lamps symbolise the promise of new discoveries yet to be made. 

No comments:

Post a Comment