iPhoneOgraphy – 28 Apr 2016 (Day 119/366)
Candles were made by the Romans beginning about 500 BC. These were true dipped candles and made from tallow. Evidence for candles made from whale fat in China dates back to the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC). In India, wax from boiling cinnamon was used for temple candles.
In parts of Europe, the Middle-East and Africa, where lamp oil made from olives was readily available, candle making remained unknown until the early middle-ages. Candles were primarily made from tallow and beeswax in ancient times, but have been made from spermaceti, purified animal fats (stearin) and paraffin wax in recent centuries.
Romans began making true dipped candles from tallow, beginning around 500 BC. While oil lamps were the most widely-used source of illumination in Roman Italy, candles were common and regularly given as gifts during Saturnalia.
Qin Shi Huang (259–210 BC) was the first emperor of the Chinese Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC). His mausoleum, which was rediscovered in the 1990s, twenty-two miles east of Xi’an, contained candles made from whale fat. The word zhú 燭 in Chinese originally meant torch and could have gradually come to be defined as a candle during the Warring States period (403–221 BC); some excavated bronzewares from that era feature a pricket thought to hold a candle.
The Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) Jizhupian dictionary of about 40 BC hints at candles being made of beeswax, while the Book of Jin (compiled in 648) covering the Jin Dynasty (265–420) makes a solid reference to the beeswax candle in regards to its use by the statesman Zhou Yi (d. 322). An excavated earthenware bowl from the 4th century AD, located at the Luoyang Museum, has a hollowed socket where traces of wax were found. Generally these Chinese candles were molded in paper tubes, using rolled rice paper for the wick, and wax from an indigenous insect that was combined with seeds. By the 18th century, novelty Chinese candles had weights built into the sides of candles – as the candle melted, the weights fell off and made a noise as they landed in a bowl. Japanese candles were made from wax extracted from tree nuts.
Wax from boiling cinnamon was used for temple candles in India. Yak butter was used for candles in Tibet.
There is a fish called the eulachon or “candlefish”, a type of smelt which is found from Oregon to Alaska. During the 1st century AD, indigenous people from this region used oil from this fish for illumination. A simple candle could be made by putting the dried fish on a forked stick and then lighting it.