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From Lighting to Romance – Candle Travel

Thousands of years of togetherness have made people feel deeply about candles. Candles burn themselves and illuminate others, and are the best portrayal of selflessness and altruism. In Chinese, people use “flower candles in the bridal chamber” and “the waning years of wind candles” to describe important moments in life; in Western culture, candles symbolize eternal light and are an indispensable tool in Christian ceremonies. Although in the age of electrification, people no longer need candles, but when night falls, a few candles can be lit to create a romantic and soothing atmosphere.

From the perspective of lighting alone, candles are the result of human beings’ beneficial explorations to enrich night life. Existing archaeological discoveries show that ancient Egypt may be the earliest area where humans used candles. At that time, candles were fueled by animal fat and were similar in shape and size to torches. As ancient Egypt communicated with the surrounding areas, candles traveled to places like Rome, Greece, etc. in western Europe, and continued to improve along the way. At the same time, in the far east, Chinese ancestors also discovered the secret of lighting fires with tallow and beeswax, and made Chinese candles, which lit up the night sky in eastern Asia. With the progress of the times and the development of technology, candles made of beeswax have gradually become an ideal material for lighting. Candles not only have good lighting effects, but also emit the natural fragrance of creatures, so they have become the first choice for people to illuminate the dark.

The latest statistics from Verified Market Research, an internationally renowned research organization, show that the total output value of the global candle industry in 2020 is as high as US$7.15 billion (the total output value of the global LED lighting industry in the same year is US$38 billion). The research firm predicts that from 2021 to 2028, the annual growth rate of the candle industry will be 8.2%, which means that by 2028, the total output value of the candle industry worldwide will reach 13.38 billion US dollars. Although human society has already entered the age of electrical appliances, traditional candles have not been replaced by better and cheaper electric lamps. All over the world, especially in economically developed areas, people’s demand for candles has risen instead of falling. From the perspective of candle consumption, Europe is the largest market for candle consumption, accounting for 30% of the world; the United States and China follow closely with a total of 40%. From lighting to romance, the enduring travel phenomenon of candles in human society has to make us admire this little utensil.

In ancient times, people “work at sunrise and rest at sunset”. With the enrichment of life content and the improvement of productivity levels, people’s demand for convenient indoor lighting after sunset is more and more intense. Therefore, Chinese ancestors invented and designed “Ting Liao” and “Ting Liao System” to ensure that people can continue to work or play in the dark.

In the Chinese classics, Ting Liao was mentioned earlier in the Book of Songs and the Rites of Zhou. For example, the “Book of Songs, Xiaoya, Tingliao” says: “How is the night? When the night is not yet young, the light in the courtyard. When the gentleman ends, the sound of Luan will be general.” poetry. The expression in modern Chinese is: “How is the night now? The night is dark and there is no morning light. The candles in the courtyard are bright and bright. The princes and ministers are coming soon, and listen to the jingle of the car bells.” Corresponding to the “Light of the Courtyard”, it paints a picture of political life at night in the Western Zhou Dynasty for us.

During the Western Zhou Dynasty, the Zhou royal family also specially set up the official position of “Si Xuan Shi”, which was fully responsible for the use and management of Ting Liao. The chapter “Zhou Li·Qiu Guan” records that the work of the Si Xuan family is “a major event in the state, and the common tomb is lit by candles”, that is, at an important moment in the country’s political life, the lights are lit to illuminate the halls at night. Zheng Xuan of the Han Dynasty commented on this: “The tomb is also a fire. The tree outside the gate is called fire candle, and inside the gate, it is called Ting Liao, all of which are heard to illuminate the crowd.”

So, what is Ting Liao? What does it have to do with our candles today?

Zhu Xi of Song Dynasty explained in his “Biography of Poetry Collection”: “Ting Liao is like a big candle. When the princes will come to the court, the Si Xuan will use a hundred pieces of objects, bundle them, and set them up in the door.” That is to say, Ting Liao is a An utensil for indoor lighting at night. Regarding the material and style of Ting Liao, Zhu Xi did not explain. From the expression of “hundreds of objects, and bundle them together”, Ting Liao should be strip-shaped and slender. In the late Qing Dynasty, Mr. Sun Yirang stated in “Zhou Li Zhengyi”: “What Ting Liao did, according to what Murong did, centered on the reed, wrapped it with cloth, and filled it with honey, like a candle today.” This paragraph is not ugly. At that time, Ting Liao and torches were more similar.

After analyzing a large number of documents, Professor Jin Gui from Zhejiang University also agreed with Mr. Sun Yirang’s point of view. He pointed out in the “Ancient Cultural Word Meaning Collection Class Identification”: “The ancients called ‘Ting Liao’, which is a large candle and a large torch placed in the inner courtyard of the gate. The reed bundle is wrapped with cloth, and the honey (beeswax) is poured into it. Regarding the “Ting Liao System”, he further pointed out: “Before the Middle Ages, the Ting Liao of the monarchs and dukes was a ritual system for lighting the palace, which belonged to the ceremony of welcoming guests. The litters are all big torches filled with beeswax.”

In addition to Ting Liao, “candles” are also mentioned in pre-Qin documents. In addition to the “Zhou Li” mentioned above, “The Book of Rites, Qu Li” also has “candles rise, food rises, guests rise, candles are not seen. Postscript” records. This “candle” is of course not a candle. The Tang Dynasty scholar Kong Yingda commented: “The ancients did not have candles, but called torches as candles.” Since it is a torch, it looks different from the candles we are familiar with today. Professor Huang Jingui concluded: “Lighting equipment, ‘candle’ runs through. The earliest torches were used, from ancient times to the Wei and Jin Dynasties, ‘candle’ is a collective name for torches.”

When did candles start getting smaller and thinner and more portable? Yu Yue, a scholar at the end of the Qing Dynasty, said: “The ancients used hemp, polygonum, flax, or grease, and there was no such thing as a candle.” The real use of beeswax as a “candle” (that is, the candle we are familiar with today) may not come until appeared in the Tang Dynasty. We can read a lot of verses related to candles from Tang poetry, such as Han Yu’s “The Candle in the Han Palace at Sunset”, Wang Jian’s “Candle in Front of the Bed in Autumn Night”, Li Shangyin’s “The torch turns into ashes and tears begin to dry”, Zhu Qingyu’s “The bridal chamber stopped the red candle last night” and so on. There is a record in “New Book of Tang” that “candles are as dense as day”. From Tang poetry and literature records, we can see that candles were used relatively frequently in the Tang Dynasty.

In addition, candles also appeared in the murals of the tombs of the Tang Dynasty. For example, there are murals of maids walking with candles on the tomb passages of the tombs of the Tang Dynasty, such as British Duke Li Zhen, Prince Zhanghuai Li Xian, and Princess Yongtai Li Xianhui. In these frescoes, the shape of the candle is long, cylindrical, and slightly thick, which is very similar to modern candles. Throughout the literature and portraits, it can be seen that candles in the Tang Dynasty have been used in lamp holders or candlesticks, and their shapes have become more delicate and diverse. Tao Yu of Song Dynasty said in “Qing Yilu” that after Princess Tongchang (849-869) died, her father Tang Yizong was very sad and created a kind of “Xianyin Candle” for her. This kind of candle lamp is not only unique in shape, but also emits sound. “It looks like a high-rise terrace, where there are miscellaneous treasures, and the flowers and birds are all exquisite. There are candles on the stage. Once the candles are lit, the exquisite ones will all move. Absolutely sound”, which shows the superb craftsmanship.

Because the materials for making torches and candles are difficult to preserve for a long time, and the brackets or sockets used to hold torches and candles are not easy to identify, archaeological discoveries have not been able to systematically present the early form and scope of use of ancient candles. It also made it more difficult for us to trace the early candle travel route.

In terms of fonts, the Chinese characters for “candle” (candle in traditional Chinese form) are both related to “insect”, indicating that the source of its fuel is insects. Of course, animal fat is also an earlier used lighting material. It is recorded in “Historical Records of the First Emperor” that the Lishan Mausoleum of Qin Shihuang “used mermaid ointment as a candle, and the indestructible will last for a long time”. The so-called mermaid is the giant salamander, commonly known as the giant salamander. The number of salamanders has always been small, and they are rare species. Obviously, using mermaid cream as a candle is quite a luxury. It can only be related to the life of emperors, and it is difficult to appear in ordinary people’s homes.

During the Qin and Han dynasties, the Chinese had mastered beekeeping skills. The main purpose of bee farming is to obtain honey and beeswax. In the Southern Song Dynasty, Liu Yiqing recorded the story of Ruan Yaoji, the son of Ruan Xian, the “Seven Sages of Bamboo Forest”, who waxed the clogs by blowing fire to polish them. “Blowing fire wax sandals” is the same as “burning wax to get light”, which shows that people at that time have been able to separate and use beeswax.

The earliest record of Chinese candle travel comes from “Xijing Miscellaneous Notes” by Ge Hong of Jin. It is recorded in the book: “The king of Nanyue offered Emperor Gao five dendrobiums, two hundred honey candles, one pair of white pheasants and one black pheasant. The emperor was very happy and sent him an envoy.” However, the authenticity of this record has always been doubted by the academic community, because During the Wei and Jin Dynasties, although wax was commonly used for lighting, wax and candles were not yet combined. In the early Tang Dynasty, Ouyang Xun and others compiled “Yiwen Leiju”, citing the “Wax Lamp Fu” written by Fan Jian, a literati in Jin Dynasty: “Lie Huapan, congealing wax, and buoyancy sparkling.” Judging from this description , The lamps in the Wei and Jin Dynasties were condensed wax, which emitted bright light by burning and melted the condensed wax into a liquid. Apparently, this congealed wax is not an elongated cylinder.

Another record of candle travel comes from “The Legacy of Kaiyuan Tianbao” written by Wang Renyu of the late Tang and Five Dynasties. The book “Demon Candles” says: “King Ning was so good-natured, someone offered a hundred candles, like wax and greasy, like fat and hard, I don’t know what they were made of.” In the Tang Dynasty, there were “tributes” and “tributes”. The system, “Someone offers a hundred candles”, indicates that these candles may be tributes from foreign countries or “tributes” from local states and counties.

Looking through the history books of Tang and Song Dynasties, there is no record of foreign tribute candles, but there are many records in the history books that “candles” were presented to the court as tribute. … tribute: musk, honey, candles, pheasant tails, antelope horns”. In addition to Jiezhou, there are also Xianning County in Danzhou (now Yichuan, Shaanxi), Pingyang County in Jinzhou (now Linfen, Shanxi), Wencheng County in Cizhou (now Ci County, Hebei), and Yichang County in Lizhou. There are candles in 15 districts including (now Guangyuan, Sichuan), Tonggu County, Chengzhou (now Li County, Gansu), Yiquan County, Yizhou (now Meitan County, Guizhou), and Linting County, Tingzhou (now Changting County, Fujian). “Tribute” location. The origin of candles shows that the origin of candles in the Tang Dynasty was concentrated in the Yellow River Basin in the north (Gansu, Shaanxi, Shanxi and other places, and only three places in Sichuan, Guizhou and Fujian in the south). In addition, according to the “Song History” and “Yuanfeng Jiuyu Zhi” and other historical books, the area where the Song Dynasty paid tribute to the central candle was roughly the same as that of the Tang Dynasty, and it was also mainly in the north. From this, it is not difficult to speculate that the travel direction of Chinese candles in the Tang and Song Dynasties should be from north to south and from west to east.

The eastward journey of Chinese candles to Japan began in the Tang Dynasty. Buddhism advocates equality of all living beings, prohibits killing, and does not use animal fats as lighting materials in temples. Therefore, high-quality Tang Dynasty candles traveled to Japan during the Nara period with the spread of Buddhism. Japanese scholars believe that in the 8th century, Japan’s honey and beeswax were mostly imported from China, which were valuable medicines and goods. At that time, the value of three catties of honey was equivalent to six leopard skins. In addition, according to Japanese documents, the medicine items brought by Jianzhen, an eminent monk in the Tang Dynasty from China, included “ten dendrobium honey” and different amounts of beeswax. Until the middle and late Ming Dynasty, Chinese candles had always been an important commodity in Sino-Japanese trade. Yasuke Mitamura wrote in “The Ming Empire and Japanese Pirates”: “In the shopping list (imported from the Ming Dynasty) listed by General Ashikaga Yoshimasa, northern silk, Tang paper, sugar, leopard skin, musk navel, Tang ink, candles and other items are dazzling.”

Similar to China’s “mermaid cream”, Europeans first used “tallow candles” made of animal fats such as cattle and sheep. Since the tallow candles burn a lot of smoke and smell bad, they have not been ideal lighting. utensils. With the development of Western lighting technology, “wax” began to appear in Westerners’ lighting schemes. According to the ancient Roman writer Pliny in Natural History, in the 1st century both Greeks and Romans used linen threads coated with wax and pitch to burn lighting. Some of these waxes are obtained from bayberry, candelilla, spanish grass (stipa) or carnauba, euricuri palm trees, and others are made from animal fat fibers or secretions such as whale oil, ambergris and beeswax.

In 1975, “History of Technology” edited by Charles Singer and others was published by Oxford University Press (the Chinese version will be published by China Workers Press in 2021). Regarding the development of candle technology, the book’s first volume, Chapter 10 “Taking “Fire, Fuel and Lighting” has made a more detailed description, from which we can also glimpse the travel information of candles in Europe.

The History of Technology uses a fresco from a tomb at Thebes in Egypt (1300 BC) to show us what may be some of the earliest candles in the world. The book said: “The candles made by the ancient Egyptians were relatively thin, and they were made by winding fibrous materials into a slender cylinder, and then pouring tallow oil or wax to make them. The candles at that time – or special torches – —Possibly there were stamens, but this is not so certain.” With the travel of candles and candle technology, “The Romans improved their candles, and their candles were made of both grease and wax. From bees, possibly other insects and certain trees, the oil rope is coated with grease or wax, and it becomes the Roman version of a thin candle”.

“In order to obtain stable beeswax, the Romans also waged war in 229 BC and conquered Corsica and Sicily, both major producers of beeswax.” Stefan Bogdanov in Beeswax: “Use and Trade” states that “beeswax was an important source of taxation in Europe from ancient Rome until the Middle Ages, and in some cases even as a general equivalent in exchange for other commodities.”

Professor James Visniak from the Department of Chemical Engineering of Ben-Gurion University in Israel wrote in the article “Candle, a beacon that illuminates the past”: “Lighting technology has accompanied human civilization from the very beginning. Since ancient times, Candles are considered to be the smartest way of lighting for ancient people. From the point of view of the way, humans first learned to use fire, and then extended the different uses of fire. The beginning of the evolution of candles may be considered that humans learned to use fire for their own benefit. Moment.” Professor Wisniak believes that the travel of candles in the West is closely related to the spread and development of religion, especially Christianity.

Indeed, after the birth of Christianity, candles became an indispensable tool in church religious ceremonies. Tertullian, the early Christian godfather, wrote: “We have never had a liturgy without candles, and we use candles not only to dispel the darkness of the night, but we do our liturgy during the day, because it ( Candles) symbolize Christ.” In Christian culture, in addition to lighting, candles also symbolize holy light, and some people even think that the onion-shaped top of the Orthodox church is modeled after the flame of the candle burning.

It is believed that The Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers, founded in London, England in 1330, was the origin of candle travel in medieval Europe. This is an old candle business that is still in operation today, when its apprentices went door-to-door in London urban areas to collect animal fat, make candles and sell them door-to-door. With the application of beeswax and beeswax technology to candle making, the company strives to produce beeswax candles that burn with no odor and less smoke. At first, beeswax candles were a luxury in medieval Europe, mainly used for religious ceremonies in courts and churches, so they were expensive and sold well. In 1484, King Richard III also granted the company a royal charter to ensure that their candle products would be highly competitive in the European market. In the mid-17th century, with the discovery of the New World, Candle traveled to the Americas with European colonists.

The modern candle industry originated in the mid-19th century. French chemist Michel Eugène Cheffler purified stearic acid, oleic acid and other fatty acids in his experiments on the decomposition and saponification of animal fats, which are used for scientific research. Build a solid foundation for making high-quality candles. Since then, modern candle factories have appeared in the United Kingdom and France, and soon, the familiar white and silver slender candles traveled from Europe to the world.

In 1860, “foreign candles” from the United Kingdom had already appeared in the coastal areas of our country. For example, in 1877, the British Jardine Matheson “Concast” freighter loaded with “foreign goods” such as foreign cloth, foreign fire, and foreign candles arrived in Wenzhou. According to research by Wu Xiang et al., by the beginning of the 20th century, my country’s foreign candles were imported in large quantities, which were typical bulk commodities. The foreign candle is white, thin and long, and its burning brightness is better than that of the domestic red candle at that time, so it is very popular. Mr. Lu Xun also wrote in the article “Wandering, Old Master Gao”: “Not long after, a thin foreign candle will be lit on every corner of the table.”

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