Sunday, August 8, 2010

Gas and oil light

"The Records of the Country South of Mount Hua, completed in 347 CE,
refer to bamboo tubing used to store and transfer the natural gas from
wells of the region around present-day Chongqing:

'There are fire wells in Jiang whose light blazes up in to the sky at
night. When people want to set this fire alight, they apply the fire
from their home hearth to it, and before another instant has passed
there is a sound like thunder, and flames shoot forth and light up the
land for ten miles or so around. Bamboo tubes are used to hold a store
of this light, which can be transported by dragging, and will not go
out all day long.' ."

Mark Elvin, The Retreat of the Elephants: An Environmental History of
China, Yale University Press, 2004, p. 66.

Elvin also quotes The Classic of the Waterways of Sichuan, published
in 1794, which describes the use of gas not only for industrial
processes, but also for domestic gas cookers, domestic gas lighting
and a form of mobile illumination using bottled oil.