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【Memory of the past 40 years】A kerosene lamp recording the glory of the times

Time:2018-09-07 18:46:00 Source: China Youth China Youth International

  My family has no habit of collection, but there is an old kerosene lamp that we’ve been reluctant to throw away. The lampshade shines, with kerosene in the lamp pot. In the past, kerosene lamps were indispensable lighting tools during the night, yet today they are at best collectibles.
  At the end of 1974, I went to the Linchi Farm in Ningdu County, Jiangxi Province to participate in farm works. The farm was located in the mountainous area where traffic was inconvenient and houses were ragged. The night there was mostly accompanied by complete darkness. At that time, not only did Linchi have no electric lighting, but most rural areas in Jiangxi had no connection with electricity. Fortunately, Linchi Farm was the only place that was equipped with a small hydroelectric power station, with an installed capacity of 40 kilowatts. Yet power supply was available only in the evening. During rainy days, six hours of electricity supply were possible at night; during dry days, two hours of electricity were hard to attain. All in all, electricity supply then was totally dependent on the weather, thus kerosene lamps were still dominant.
  Kerosene lamps consume more kerosene for brighter light, thus we typically turned the fire down for energy saving. I remember a farm worker always slightly turned the light on for eye problems, leaving the provided oil used up in just half a month and other roommates worried about the night. They had no choice but to ask the tractor driver for some diesel fuel. Smokey and pungent, the diesel fuel made the whole room full of foul atmosphere and mosquito curtains black. We called their room a “crow room”.
  In the early 1980s, the improving economy allowed introduction of electricity from Tuanjie Reservoir tens of kilometers away with more than 50,000 yuan, stabilizing the electricity supply in the farm and surrounding units and villages. However, season is a significant influencing factor for hydropower, thus power outages were common occurrence during dry seasons, making kerosene lamps continue to play a role.
  As reforms deepened, lack of electricity in rural areas has gradually been eliminated. Yet cables had to be supported by small wooden sticks that were often blown off by the wind as lack of roads in remote places impeded transportation of long cement rods. The bulky transformers could not be installed nearby, resulting in their overload operations in very low voltage: TVs, washing machines, and even rice cookers could not work. Moreover, insufficient electricity also disrupted mechanical milling, so we had to bring rice from the outside, or adopt the most primitive method: the waterwheel drives the raft to beat the rice, and then the hand-driven windmill sifts the milled rice. As for lighting, the lighting effect of a 100-watt electric bulb was no more than that of a firefly. Insufficient electricity and low voltage were real headaches for people then.
  After the 18th National Congress, profound changes have taken place in the vast rural areas. Eye-catching houses of varying shapes rise abruptly from the ground, looking like treasures embedded in the green water and mountains; increasing rural roads intertwin like white silver strips. Taking Jiangxi as an example, in the first half of this year, natural villages with more than 25 households in Jiangxi have basically accessed to cement roads, completing the assigned task two and a half years ahead of schedule. 64,000 kilometers of cement roads have been built in 74,000 natural villages, benefiting more than 14 million villagers. Favorable accessibility has promoted power supply: a few tons of cement rods, large transformers and thick cables were all introduced, rendering low voltage a thing of the past.
  Besides, to deal with insufficient electricity supply, the state has taken various measures to develop firepower and hydropower while accelerating new energy power generation. Tall wind turbines stand in deep mountains, seashore and riverside; shiny photovoltaic panels are erected in roofs, shallow water and barren hills. Photovoltaic power generation massively eases rural electricity demands, and enriches villagers as a new path for getting rich.
  Current cities are dotted with colorful neon lights, shining street lights and rows of fancy lamps at night, making the road look as bright as the day. Colorful lights mixed with the river form quite a unique and beautiful picture. In the village, solar street lights quickly become here to stay for their internal power generation and convenience. It is worth mentioning that lighting lamps are also experiencing constant improvement: from the original incandescent lamps to energy-saving lamps and the current energy-saving and bright LED products.
  With enhancing power supply capacity, stable voltage and low probability of power outage, people’s life is now quite convenient. Both the city and the town are ablaze with lights at night, thus flashlights and kerosene lamps lost their markets. In case of power outage, emergency lights come in handy. As a result, kerosene lamps merely bear collection values.
  The past and present life of the small kerosene lamp is a microcosm of our social life, recording the changes occurred since the reform and opening-up: seeking good appearance in clothing, nutrition in food, spaciousness in housing, and convenience in transportation. Besides, introduction of clean tap water and cement roads in the countryside, and wide spread of natural gas pipelines and places for leisure exercises record people’s gaining sense of happiness.

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