Home> Cultural Heritages

Art of making cavel lamps in danger

chinadaily.com.cn| Updated: September 5, 2016 L M S

The art of making a type of lamp made with cavel (fashioned from the horn of a goat), which was used as an illumination tool for the wealthy in ancient China, is in danger of being lost forever. Zhang Fangquan, a craftsman from Zhuji city in Zhejiang province who currently makes the lamps, hopes to find someone he can teach his unique skills. 

The cavel lampshade, which is as thin as a finger nail, does not even have a single seam closing. When lit, by a single candle, the lamp is simply exquisite. In addition, the lamp is light, resistant to fire, wind-resistant and durable.

640.webp (2).jpg

A lamp made of cavel [Photo/Zhejiang Daily]

According to Zhang, the villagers in Zhuji will buy the lamps for dragon dances, which occur on the fifteenth day of the first month of the lunar year.

For a truly beautiful lamp, a light and large cavel is preferable. In fact, the lamps in Beijing’s Forbidden City are of this kind.

It takes more than 30 hours to make a lamp, according to Zhang, and the craftsmanship has been listed as an important item of local cultural heritage.

640.webp (1).jpg

The cavel which is then use to be made into a lampshade [Photo/Zhejiang Daily]

"First you carve the cavel into slices, then glue them with heated iron ware and finally singe it into an oval shape," says Zhang of his rare craft. 

The craftsmanship has been almost lost over the years. In 2009, the Beijing Morning Post reported that it was proving impossible to find a craftsman to repair the only remaining two cavel lamps.

640.webp (3).jpg

Zhang Fangquan, who mastered the skill of making cavel lamps, wants to find an apprentice. [Photo/Zhejiang Daily]

Zhang now hopes to pass on his skills to someone else, not out of a desire for financial gain, but to keep an important part of cultural heritage alive. 

"It will be a great pity if it dies," said Zhang.