Neil Brown argues that work of art is subject to myriad of challenges and it has reached a point whereby they are being criticized (Needham 56). In his argument, he observes that technology is merely affecting and gradually eroding the value of art. In this case, the real and intrinsic nature of art is being consumed perhaps by emerging modern art in spite of the fact that traditional forms of drawings and paintings are still valued in many societies across the world (Stacey 7 “1994”).
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As a matter of fact, Brown’s argument tends to solidity the fact that while contemporary art is rapidly taking center stage, some of the almost forgotten arts of work such as the oil paper umbrellas are still significant in modern studies. It is also apparent that the oil paper umbrella has gone through several series of revolution.
Therefore, it has seemingly lost its technicality. This paper aims at offering definition, the origin and brief history of the oil paper umbrella as an old age artifact. Moreover, the essay will reflect how this umbrella was made, its significance, value and how it compares with the modern art of constructing umbrellas.
Oil paper umbrella is a kind of umbrella decorated with several floral patterns that are made with some type of paper (Crawford 58). Initially, it originated from China and later spread to other parts of the world such as Asia, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam and Korea (Miller 14).
According to approved archaeological evidences, the artifact was first made by Chinese purposely for sheltering from scorching sun (CIBA limited 49). It is evident that construction of such umbrellas has been a prolonged traditional activity dating back as early as 25000 years ago such that it has been a deeply rooted ancient practice in some of those countries where the artifact is valued (Crawford 58). It is also worthy to note that oil paper umbrellas are among the most ancient umbrellas ever known in the world.
Use of antique technology in making the oil paper umbrella was at times inconveniencing since they were difficult to close or open. Moreover, they were heavy and expensive hence only nobles and other societal elites and kings would use this type of umbrella (Crawford 58).
However, craftsmen improved their art to make it convenient for use even by ordinary men in China. For instance, they put a ring on the handle to make it easier to carry when closed. This also made it possible to store them well when not in use. It is vivid that this type of ancient umbrella was most popular with women, the reason why they were perceived as feminine items until later when men began embracing its use (Crawford 59).
In most cases, this type of umbrella was intensely decorated to match the preferences of its users. In most cases, these umbrellas had ointments at the top with different unique parts which performed unique purposes according to designs (Institute of paper Chemistry 363).
There is a historical belief that before the oil paper umbrella cam into existence and embraced, there were others which were made of silk during the ancient dynasties. The most well known location is the Fujian province where this technology was first adopted and developed.
Several types of paper umbrella were discovered in this province before the emergence of oil paper umbrella (Oriental-décor.com par 2). It is also important to note that various types of materials were used to make these umbrellas. Examples of materials used included flowers, cotton and silk.
Currently, the most common type is the paper umbrella. The reason behind this is that the latter are quite easier to fashion and are effortlessly made impermeable by use of oils to cover the thin surfaces (Anon par 1). Due to advances made in technology, paper characteristics have evolved into different forms and features altogether.
According to Brown’s observations, modern society in China do not know much about the work of art and skills used to make the oil paper umbrellas (Chinaholidays par 6). Moreover, due to technological advancement, they fail to identify or even notice the traditional beauty depicted by the artifacts. Vividly, people have been denied chance to realize the cultural significance of the work of art (Gordon 49).
Brown comments that art can not be limited to specific age or gender and it needs to be studied from different perspectives. Due to evolution of culture, it is quite dissatisfying that the current generation has lost the meaning attached to such artifacts. However, artifacts stored in museums acts as sources of advancing knowledge and skills (Stacey 36 “1991”). In this case, modern people visit such locations to learn about some of the ancient skills that were used to make umbrellas.
In most cases, the oiled paper umbrellas have graceful surfaces which are painted in several pictures of birds, animals and flowers (Gordon 48). They normally have characteristics that definitely resemble natural landscape of China. These characteristics shields the natives from possible hazards derived from the environment such as harsh sun and rainfall (Admin par 3). It is highly likely that this is what makes this type of umbrella to be unique in the history of human civilization.
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Evidently, every part of the umbrella is selected carefully and treated with much care to ensure that they are able to endure harsh conditions such as sun and rain (Admin par 4). It is also noticeable that each part of an oiled paper umbrella has been assembled with great skill to appeal to its users.
Age and durability of the materials used is considered to enhance their quality. For example, an old and mature bamboo rod is used to make the rib of the umbrella so that it can be strong enough to withstand external pressure (Admin par 5). The special treatment of the rib increases pliability hence the umbrella can easily bend without breaking. Alternatively, the bark of mulberry plants was used to make the ribs.
Besides the ribs, the umbrella’s shade is subjected to several steps of treatment with chemicals before it is ready to be used. Before it gets into completion, special sophisticated tissue papers must be incorporated in it to ensure that it endures strong force (Gordon 48). There are thin fibrous materials that arte used with tung oil.
Such materials should be strong and tear free. Initially, the shade must be encrusted with a gelatinous form of tung oil before it is painted with picture. The umbrella shade should be transparent and must be dry before the embellishment process commences. They also waxed the shade of the umbrella to make it water proof Craftsmen apply paint on the shade for embellishment (Gray 375).
At this point, craftsmen would delicately handcraft and decorate the shade with beautiful designs of animals, landscape, flowers or other peculiar figures which included Chinese writings. In line with this, the shade is finally coated with oil to increase the durability of the decorations. It is worth to note that, the umbrella frame has to be treated chemically to discourage insects that drill the ribs making them brittle.
Empirical research conducted on oiled paper umbrella indicates that before the umbrella is completed, more than 80 processes must be accomplished (Gray 375). In this essence, the umbrella is free from fading, leaking and destruction due to strong wind or sun. In most case, those umbrellas that are effectively constructed were used to protect people against thunder and lightning.
It is vivid that, the procedure of produce oil paper umbrella has evolved from simple to complex craftsmanship where people seek for instant delight as opposed to ancient handicraft that emphasized on beauty. Initially, Chinese craftsmen used silk to make the umbrellas. Later, they developed a paper made type of umbrellas (Anon par 2).
Furthermore, even the type of paintings has changed depending on certain rituals and cultural significance. For instance, traditionally, the royal family had common color umbrellas that were either yellow or red unlike commoners who carried blue ones (Gray 375). It is worth to note that different colors had unique meaning to the people of china (Glenna 58).
For example, umbrellas that were shaded in purple symbolized longevity among the elders. In most cases, white umbrellas were used during funeral ceremonies to signify sorrow. Those in red color were used during valentine seasons and wedding ceremonies while blue ones were carried by kings and nobles (Hsuin 24).
There are several benefits that have been derived from oiled paper umbrellas from ancient times to present. Since the umbrellas came into existence, they have been used for several purposes. Most importantly, the umbrellas were used for protection from adverse weather such as sun and rain (Needham 193).
Moreover, Chinese weddings cherished the umbrellas and they were presented as wedding gifts especially among the Hakka community in Japan. In line with this, these umbrellas are perceived to have auspicious value other than sheltering people from wind, rain and sun (Giveawayshow.com par 1).
Additionally, the Hakka community in China has attached a meaning on the oil paper umbrella to signify a child. Due to this meaning, the parents present the umbrellas top their boys when they reach adult age. This implies that, they should reproduce many children and live as a unified community (CIBA limited 76).
In other communities in china, the word umbrella signifies “having a growing population” hence parents also give the umbrellas to their daughters at marriage. This bestows to them that, they are sincerely blessed in their marriages (Smith 126).
Earlier on, such umbrellas were used for acrobatic purposes in events such as tight-rope walker for balance. In addition to this, the umbrellas were perceived as symbol of prosperity among some communities in China and Japan (Anon par 2). Traditionally, umbrellas were presented to married people during dowry ceremonies as an auspicious for having many off springs. It is evident that, Chinese people used umbrellas to signify unity, completeness or satisfaction in a family (CIBA limited 45).
The umbrella played a religious role especially among the people of Japan. They placed the umbrella on their god’s seat as a symbol of protection from sun and rain. Additionally, umbrellas were used to cover the bride hence prevent her from bad spirits (Giveawayshow.com par 3). Most of the times, people in religious ceremonies held umbrellas to send away evil spirits.
Right from ancient times, the oil paper umbrellas have had their own authentic values and are perceived by people as one of the rare gifts in real life (Giveawayshow.com par 4). Nevertheless, some people overlook at them as a wonderful symbol of beauty. Instead, they perceive the umbrella as a practical tool purposed to be used in diverse weather condition.
As an excellent and ancient invention they are exquisite and amazing products and are easily sported in certain shops and museums all over the world. In this case, it acts as an excellent tourist souvenir in China (Gray 375). Their dainty flowers and displays of auspicious animals and landscape reflect the value of the natural environment.
When people are sported with the umbrellas this depict the ideal beauty of the Chinese environment and as well portrays the craftsmen’s work of arts (Admin par 1). Other than the beauty, its symbolic nature is of value to the people of china especially with it round shape signifying unity. Besides this, it has a cultural connotation that upholds the way of life of people in China (Hwang 67).
There are several aspects of contrasts and comparisons between the ancient and modern umbrellas. Just like the ordinary umbrella, the oiled paper one is water proof to prevent water from leaking during the rainy seasons. Incase the umbrella get wet; it is shaken off to drain water like it is done with the normal ones (Gray 375). Contrastingly, the ancient paper umbrella is perceived to be more romantic than the modern one.
Much meaning was attached to the paper umbrella unlike the modern that is only perceived as a tool to be used in various weather conditions (Gray 375). Moreover, the oil paper umbrella was mote symbolic representing wealth, unity, vigor and love as opposed to the modern one.
Additionally, the ancient umbrella appears more elegant and classic since much effort was put on the design than the modern one. Meanwhile, ancient umbrellas were sold for cultural, religious and social aspects as opposed to modern ones that are used as souvenirs or art (Fu 125).
To recap it all, China has currently advanced in making oiled paper umbrellas that have different characteristics and fashion. It is definite that these umbrellas served several purposes such as shelter, security, wedding gifts as well as cultural symbols. The oiled paper umbrellas had several parts and were made in different colors ranging from red, yellow, purple to blue. At present, umbrellas are made from paper, cotton, silk, plastic film and nylon.
As it is the case in other countries, this technology has spread far and wide making the work of art to become an economic activity. However, due to changes in culture, people’s perspective toward such artifacts is embedded on common significance use of sheltering from extreme weather conditions. Besides, deep cultural connotations attached to this artifact are changing although it has gained familiarity in both men and women.
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