Chinese Freemasons lantern

RBCM 2010.170.82.1
paper and horse hair

This tall, hexagonal running-horse lantern is the oldest-known surviving Chinese Freemasons lantern to be found in the Americas, and possibly in South East Asia’s Chinatowns. Handcrafted in the 1930s in Victoria’s Chinatown, it displays the Chinese Freemasons icon, contributor names, and Chinese art and calligraphy.

The craftsmanship of this piece represents one of the best examples of the Chinese classical arts and crafts tradition of running-horse lanterns. This one is unique in that both the running horses and the intricate small parts on each of the six art panels were moved simultaneously by the same central axle.

The contributors’ names on the bottom panels were connected to Chinese Canadian communities across BC in the first half of the 20th century. Chinese Freemasons is the oldest Chinese organization in Canada; they established their first Tong Hall in Barkerville in 1863.

The lantern illustrates trans-Pacific connections significant to British Columbian, Canadian, and global history. It bespeaks a Chinese cultural vestige – in the Chinese Freemasons’ cultural roots across the Pacific, the new identity of those in the Chinese Canadian community, and the Freemasons’ communal sense that was unchanged from China to Canada.

Watch an animated 3D model of the lantern in motion

This object selected by Dr. Tzu-I Chung. View Profile »