“Alone holding an oil-paper umbrella, I wander along a long solitary lane in the rain…”
– “A Lane in the Rain” by Dai Wangshu.
If you have read this poem, you will subconsciously imagine the poetic beatuty scene and be impressed by Chinese oil-paper umbrellas. An oil-paper umbrella originated in China and then subsequently spread across several East, South and Southeast Asian countries. Chinese oil-paper umbrellas have long been viewed as an emblem of China’s tradition of cultural craftsmanship and poetic beauty. They are not just an instrument to ward off rain or sunlight, but also works of art possessing rich cultural significance and aesthetic value.
The oil-paper umbrella also symbolizes romantic and faithful love. A red oil-paper umbrella is held by the matchmaker as the bride is greeted at the groom’s home as the umbrella is supposed to help ward off bad luck. Also because oil-paper (youzhi) sounds similar to the word for “have children” (youzi), the umbrella is seen as a symbol of fertility. Additionally, Chinese oil-paper umbrellas often appear in Chinese literature works to imply romance and beauty.
The round nature of an umbrella makes it a symbol of reunion because “round” or “circle” (yuan) in Chinese also carries the meaning of “getting together.”
The best-known story about the umbrella is the Legend of the White Snake, in which Xu Xian and Bai Suzhen (a white snake nymph), become known to each other due to an oil-paper umbrella (Xu lent his umbrella to Bai when it was raining) and they gradually fell in love and were eventually married.
- Yuhang, Zhejiang
Oil-paper umbrellas in Yuhang are made with high mechanical skills and top materials, which provide their endurance. Lots of travelers who passed through Yuan would buy umbrellas from Dong Wenyuan’s umbrella shop as souvenirs for friends and relatives.
Oil-paper umbrellas Sichuan are exquisite with fine paintings, abundant colors and beautiful outlooks, the umbrellas are also famous for their ability to shield strong winds. A famous Erlongxizhu umbrella (Èr lóng xì zhū), which was exported to countries such as England, Malaysia and Singapore and was regarded as the “Chinese King of Umbrellas”.
The umbrellas in Jianxi are orthodox and beautiful in appearance, as well as endurable with portability. named the “Jīnxī dǒulì Jiǎlù sǎn”. Kangxi Emperor was surprised by the quality and strength of the oil-paper umbrella and gave it a positive name called the “Jialu paper umbrella Jia Tianxia”. Since then they have been commonly called “Jialu umbrellas”. Jialu umbrellas were awarded the first place during an international exhibition in 1936. however, one of the raw materials, persimmon tree is in extinction. jialu umbrellas have since become extinct.
Oil-paper umbrellas in Changsha, Hunan province date back to about 100 years, the earliest oil-paper umbrella shop is established by Tao Jiqiao during the Qing dynasty.
The Hankou, Hubei, province has been producing oil-paper umbrellas for a few hundred years. In 1864, Somun opened an official umbrella shop called Suhengtai Sandian and brought up the popularity of the umbrella market locally.
The oil-paper umbrella is one of the three treasures in Fuzhou. The other two are namely the Lacquerware and the combs made of cattle horn. Oil-paper umbrella in Nanping is famous with two other brands altogether known as the “three mouth”.
Oil-paper umbrella production in Tengchong, Yunnan, dates back to two-hundred years ago, or nine generations, also called the Zhichengzi. The oil-paper umbrellas produced in Tengchong are finely tuned, abundant with colors and beautiful outlook.
So do you have a detailed image of Chinese oil-paper umbrella after reading this article. If not, welcome your comments below and I’ll respond to your confusions.