(1) Excellent Functionality

The excellent functionality of Han Dynasty lamps and lanterns is mainly reflected in the solution of indoor pollution and the realization of multifunctionality. As early as 2000 years ago, people already had the awareness of environmental protection and paid attention to the air quality of living space, and invented environmental protection lamps that could purify smoke and dust.

In the Han Dynasty in China, people used animal fat as lighting fuel, animal fat burning some charcoal particles and burning ashes become soot, diffuse around, so that the indoor air becomes very dirty.

Therefore, the ancients designed the smoke pipe, and cleverly with animals, people modeling the relevant parts of the clever combination, such as the human arm, phoenix, geese, geese neck, cattle, etc. as a flue to the smoke into the hollow lamp, the lamp is filled with water, the use of water to dissolve the smoke and dust. The environmental protection design of using water to filter soot, although its principle is simple and easy to understand, but reflects the extraordinary wisdom of the ancient Chinese people to use water to separate solids and gases.

(2) Reasonable structure

The reasonable construction of Han Dynasty sculptural lamps is mainly reflected in two aspects: size and structure.

1. Reasonable size.

The size of Chinese Han Dynasty lamps and lanterns was designed to meet the living habits of people at that time. In order to show their strong economic strength, the kings of Han Dynasty pursued the grand appearance of palace buildings, so the indoor space was very empty.

At this time, people still retain the habit of sitting on the floor, the height of their body position is about 90 cm, so that some of the daily objects, such as a few, case, couch lamps and other lamps are designed to be relatively low.

For example, the height of the Changxin Palace Lamp is 48 cm, the height of the Chinese silver bronze ox lamp is 46 cm, and the height of the copper lamp of the wild goose and fish is 52 cm. Han Dynasty general desk height of about 30 cm, the height of the lamp plus the total height of the desk in about 80 cm, while the position of the lampshade is in about 60 cm, just with the Han Dynasty people sitting on the ground with their hands half lifting the position of the book basically parallel, suitable for local lighting needs.

2. Reasonable structure.

Beautiful and practical Han Dynasty lamps after a long time of smoke and fire baking its flue inevitably dirty, how to solve the internal cleaning of the flue, the clever Han Dynasty people have long thought of this point. That is the use of sub-cast assembly, easy to disassemble and clean.

There are many Han Dynasty sculptural lamps with this method. For example, the long letter palace lamp, painted geese and fish lamp, the wrong silver bronze cow lamp are used in the form of sub-casting assembly, first the various parts of the lamp are cast separately, and then assembled, its design can be described as ingenious.

(3) Beautiful modeling

The shape of Han Dynasty lamps are mostly based on figures and animal images. Its modeling vivid, beautiful image, from the modeling approach, the works of this period also seems ancient, thick, clumsy and heavy, from the many unearthed sculptural lamps, there is no too detailed carving, reflecting a high degree of uniformity. In the shape of figures, attention is paid to both the external form of the form and the inner charm of the form.

The Changxin Palace Lamp is a representative work in the shape of a figure, which is a kneeling court lady holding a lamp with both hands. The processing of the clothing pattern is simple and smooth, sparse and dense, and can be said to have both form and spirit. Her head is slightly tilted forward, her expression is focused, and she looks tired and cautious, showing the unique demeanor of a young court lady of the lower class.

Her concentrated expression, clear lines and reasonable proportions make it an excellent figure sculpture in itself. The animal shapes of the bronze lamps and lanterns are more colorful, and the subjects are mostly taken from birds, geese, fish, turtles and cranes, deer, horses, dragons and bears, etc. The shapes are dexterous and graceful, lively and lovely, rich in a strong sense of life, giving people a sense of intimacy. The modeling expression is highly generalized and abstract.

(4) Cultural bearing

While the lamp is a lighting tool, it also reflects the cultural connotation of its era. The rise of prophetic theology, the Han Dynasty, the ancient superstition of auspiciousness and the idea of ascension to immortality, they see death as life, death as existence, that after death, “the soul does not die”, “after death to ascend to heaven”. Lamps as a product of this era, its design is bound to be influenced by these ideas.

Auspicious subject matter performance. People give the concept of good luck in the cattle, sheep, geese, vermilion birds, dragons, phoenixes and other specific things, with these animals containing auspicious symbolism to express people’s pursuit of a better life.

In the long-term historical development process, the auspicious culture is integrated with people’s beliefs, myths and legends, and has unique expressions. Take the painted goose and fish lantern as an example. Painted geese and fish lanterns with geese holding fish as the shape.

The ancients put the geese and birds of prey, loved by people. Because the geese always live in pairs, so the old wedding customs often take geese as a betrothal gift. “Shuowen Jiezi”: “geese, know the time bird, the great man thought the best, faint ceremony with.” About the artistic image of birds holding fish, as early as in China’s Neolithic era has appeared. Geese holding fish has the symbolic meaning of harvest. “Fish” and “Yu” harmonize, symbolizing wealth and prosperity.


The practical function of Han Dynasty lamps and lanterns is closely combined with the plastic art, which makes them both practical and aesthetic. The number of shapes and styles, the quantity of lamps, and the beauty of craftsmanship and materials far exceeded those of the pre-Qin era.

This paper analyzes the function, structure, and culture of Han Dynasty lamps from the perspective of artistic beauty and craft aesthetics. Realistically and objectively, it shows a glorious history in the world of Chinese practical craftsmanship and ancient Chinese lamps and lanterns. We hope to provide some historical reference for modern lamp design.

We can not only learn the ancient thought of creation, but also have important reference and inspiration for the design of lamps and lanterns and the development direction of practical sculpture today, leaving valuable material and spiritual wealth for our descendants’ learning.