December 2, 2010

Historical Treasure from a Camphor Wood Chest in St. Dominick

Do you have a special camphor chest to keep your treasures?

There have been lots of chests in furniture shops which I have the "desire" to buy but I never did get one.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries...European ships plying between China and Europe were stuffed full of camphor wood chests. In them were treasures like tea and other precious goods. And sometimes the chests were sold separately to customers. Women started to purchase them and place them in the living rooms as objects to be admired. Hence the popularity of the camphor wood chests rose sharply in those centuries. Today many continue to value them as antiques and precious legacies from their forefathers.

I was delighted to meet Mrs. Tomlinson's camphor chest in Cornwall. It was a real treasure chest with a great history.

One of the pictures from the scroll...Prodigal son asking for forgiveness from his father.

This chest was bought in Hong Kong in the 1960's and was brought to Sibu by an English ship captain who sailed the South China Sea who was a great friend of the Tomlinsons.

The Tomlinsons worked in Sarawak for several years and later were transferred back to the UK.

In the chest among other treasures there was a Chinese scroll(all rolled up)  which was used by Chinese Sunday School teachers to teach the Parable of the Prodigal Son in China. This scroll of more than 100 years old  was a gift from Rev Tomlinson's father who used to be a missionary in China. Cellophane tape has been used to tape the pictures together.

This is what a normal camphor chest is like. You can buy them in better furniture shops. Antiques are hard to come by.

My friend Judy having a look at the 100 year old teaching aid.

Mrs. Janet Tomlinson holding the precious antique pictorial scroll of the Prodigal Son - Chinese version from Qing Dynasty.

Having seen such a camphor chest, I would say that it would really be nice for some of us , especially those of us who have roots in Fujian to one day own a camphor wood chest....and in the future our descendants can have a peep into our collections and see for themselves the valuable items we leave them. Just a thought.

It was an amazing lesson for Judy and I, together with Mrs. Tomlinson, to review the Parable of the Prodigal Son with the help of Qing Dynasty illustrations.

May God bless the Tomlinsons....


Anonymous said...

Cinnamomum camphora (commonly known as Camphor tree, Camphorwood or camphor laurel) is a large evergreen tree that grows up to 20–30 metres tall. The leaves have a glossy, waxy appearance and smell of camphor when crushed. In spring it produces bright green foliage with masses of small white flowers. It produces clusters of black berry-like fruit around one centimetre in diameter. It has a pale bark that is very rough and fissured vertically.

Camphor is a white crystalline substance, obtained from the tree Cinnamomum camphora. Camphor has been used for many centuries as a culinary spice, a component of incense, and as a medicine. Camphor is also an insect repellent and a flea-killing substance.

Cinnamomum camphora is native to Taiwan, southern Japan, southeast China and Indochina, where it is also cultivated for camphor and timber production. The production and shipment of camphor, in a solid, waxy form, was a major industry in Taiwan prior to and during the Japanese colonial era (1895–1945). It was used medicinally and was also an important ingredient in the production of smokeless gunpowder and celluloid. Primitive stills were set up in the mountainous areas in which the tree is usually found. The wood was chipped; these chips were steamed in a retort, allowing the camphor to crystallize on the inside of a crystallization box, after the vapour had passed through a cooling chamber. It was then scraped off and packed out to government-run factories for processing and sale. Camphor was one of the most lucrative of several important government monopolies under the Japanese.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

That's a very interesting comment. Many people have already forgotten about camphor which is actually an imporant ingredient in the making of Tiger Balm and many other ointments used by Asians!!

Thanks for letting me know that it is a culinary spice as well!

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