Lamps and lanterns have a long history
of evolvement. The first heap of needfire
people used, namely the first lighting in
the history. With the passage of time, it
was found that needfire cannot be removed,
so torch was then invented. Stringently
speaking, such torch cannot be called a
lamp, but it is the previous form of lamps
and lanterns. In ancient times, the Chinese
word which means "lamp" just originated
from the word "bean", because
they have the same form. "Bean"
is a kind of ceramic tableware from the
Neolithic Age to the warring period. Its
mouth just like a shallow plate and the
latter part of it is a ring foot.
In order to illumine, lampwick and grease
were put in the center part of the "bean"
by our ancestors. This lamp was passed on
from generation to generation for thousands
of years and became the symbol of light.
The first lamp was invented in the warring
period. It was proved that those lamps were
mainly bronze ones and elegant in form.
In Han Dynasty, the production of lamps
developed quickly. On one hand, the bronze
lamps remain a marvelous state in shape,
decoration, and artistic value. On the other
hand, ceramic lamps became the main stream
of lamps and prevailed in the lower classes.
Till Song and Yuan Dynasty, bronze lamps
almost disappeared while ceramic lamps played
an important role. The base of the lamp
began to change from people to animals.
What is more, people gradually realized
the importance of saving energy, so new
kinds of lamp were invented.
Ming and Qing Dynasty are the summit for
the development of ceramics. Without exception,
lamps were rich in kind and texture. The
appearance of palace lantern made it an
epoch in the history of lamps and lanterns.
They were not only the instrument for illumination
but also artistic works for display.
In ancient times, the fuel for lamps are
mainly grease of plants. With the use of
kerosene from the latter part of 19th century,
kerosene lamps began to prevail in China.
But later it was replaced by electric light
step by step. So the lamps were reserved
in the museum since then.