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What is an Oriental Lamp?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2016
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An Oriental lamp is a lamp with an East Asian-inspired design. A wide variety of styles of lamp are produced in East Asia itself, providing a great deal of fodder for importers, and lamp designers also create specific lamp designs which are meant to evoke the East. The collective obsession with all things Oriental is often said to date back to the adventures of Marco Polo, which popularized Asian culture in Europe, leading to a frenzy for Asian-style goods which has yet to abate. This interest has made products like Oriental lamps readily available in much of the West.

One classic type of Oriental lamp is a paper lantern. Paper lanterns of all shapes and sizes are widely used in Japan and China, ranging from colorful paper globes with bamboo frames to table lamps made with a wooden framework and a paper covering. In addition to solitary and string lamps of the paper lantern design, it is also possible to purchase paper lampshades which can be used to cover ceiling lights or to convert a basic lamp base into an Oriental lamp.

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Other Oriental lamps may utilize materials associated with East Asia, such as porcelain and silk. Porcelain can be used as a base for a lamp, or as the body for an oil lamp, while silk can be used for decorative lampshades. Plain, painted, and embroidered silk lampshades are all readily available. Some other Asian-inspired materials for table lamps include lacquered wood bases and carved stone, which can be used to create elegant and elaborate lanterns.

Stone and ceramic lamps with an Asian-inspired design are also available for the garden. These lamps are designed to be weather-resistant, and they may be fitted with candles or electric lights. Cast lamps made from metals like brass can also be developed with Oriental themes. The classic brass oil lantern which appears in the story of Aladdin is Oriental in origin, for example.

Decorations on Oriental lamps often include Asian-inspired themes, like lotuses, tigers, peonies, plum blossoms, colorfully dressed women, phoenixes, dragons, traditional Asian landscapes, and so forth. Tassels, beading, and other ornamentation may also be used to make an Oriental lamp more visually interesting, or to mesh with the theme of an Asian-styled room. Others may include written messages in various Asian languages, including the mark of the lamp's maker, in the case of an Oriental lamp which has been crafted by hand.

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