cast iron lantern?

HerbFebruary 20, 2004

Until I saw this advertised on E-Bay I never expected to see a Japanese garden lantern in cast iron.

Are they very rare, or just a bit unusual?

Click here to see it

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

Hi Herb,

Stone is more common than iron, but cast iron lanterns were frequently used during Meiji and subsequent periods. Probably, they are not as easy to come by as stone lanterns today because so many were likely not taken care of, and gave in to rust over time.

There are some very nice cast iron lanterns - including a huge one - 7' or 8' tall - at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass. They're in the museum's "Asian" garden. Mike/Yama may have pix of them that we can post.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2004 at 11:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
edzard(3b Canada)

I'm curious to hear Mike's take on cast iron lanterns as well..
it is my understanding that the cast iron, bronze temple lantern came first, ca600AD, and when Japan was introduced to tempered steel, made it possible for stone to be carved..
just different sources perhaps..

    Bookmark   February 21, 2004 at 11:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

I've seen references to iron and bronze lanterns -- the hanging kind -- used in shrines and temples for many centuries. Occassionally, I come across them in shops that deal in Japanese and Chinese antiques. You can find bronze temple lanterns - they're fairly common, as are smaller hanging iron ones. I have an iron one that is about 80-100 years old and was evidently for home garden use.

But, the big cast iron garden lanterns are a different thing, I think. I recall seeing a photo of an iron lantern from the Edo period in one of my books, and will see if I can find it. Most of the big ones I've seen still in use have been from the early to mid Meiji period, with the smaller hanging lanterns being early Taisho. The lanterns I mentioned at the Peabody Essex are Meiji, and were a gift to the museum (through Edward S. Morse) from the Japanese government of that time.

As I postulated before, maybe older examples are harder to come by because iron outdoor lanterns deteriorate more quickly than stone. Most of the pictures I've seen of older iron standing lanterns have been of indoor settings and the sheltered parts of courtyards.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2004 at 1:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
yama(7b Ga)

Hi edzard
when first temple was build AD 588 . roof tile craftmen, carpenters, roban hakase/ like civile engener who prepare gound and painter, monk are send by king of Kudara/ korian as gift to Sushun empror oldest base of stone lantern was dicovered at where Asukaji was build more than 1400 years ago ( base stone is marble)
(officaly buddhsim came to Japan AD 538)
lantarn can be bronz, copper, cast iron, stone,wood. eraly Nara era stone lantan was made with soft stone.

name of temple was Hokoji , and other name of Hokoji is Asuka ji( asuka is name of place in nara) .

during asuka era stone mason knew how to cuve stone 5~ 10 ton or larger and able to set where stone should be.

I think stone lantarn at Peabody Essex musiam has bad taste. too much decorations. I like less decorated toro.
there are bronz lantarn at Toshogu ,Tokyu Ueno district.
it is about 550 years old .
it is better than Peaboy Essex Musiam I think/but it is just matter of tast. some people likes stake beter than fish...

before tempered steel came to Japan , stone craftman used soft stone to curve with tools which they had. ( bronz and steel came to japan about same time from china/koria long before buddhsim came to japan).

Edzard ....thank you for your e mail . will concider it.

I do not understand why my computer chenged font

    Bookmark   February 21, 2004 at 4:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

I like the iron lanterns at the Peabody Essex. They're just poorly placed. The big one may have been designed for export (it was a gift from the Japanese government to Edward Morse and the museum), which is why it is more ornate. The smaller lanterns were rather plain, not really ornamented.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2004 at 11:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Cytania(UK Midlands)

Check this from St.Mawgan Bonsai Nursery, the lanterns look right at home under the karensansui viewing area and are now providing a home for wildlife!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2004 at 1:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
didgeridoo(z7 SC)

Whilst wandering through the Rubens website, I stumbled upon a gallery of cast iron and other metallic lanterns from the Toshugu Shrine (1636). Very ornate...almost gawdy.;)


Here is a link that might be useful: Toshugu Shrine - Nikko

    Bookmark   February 24, 2004 at 10:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Jando_1(Zone 5 IL)

Christian, your right, they look like they belong in the Victorian era :)

Cheers J

    Bookmark   February 24, 2004 at 11:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

Those are about the same as the big Meiji lantern at the Peabody Essex. Hey, they weren't meant for "Zen" gardens, you know. ;)

    Bookmark   February 25, 2004 at 10:18AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
yama(7b Ga)

hey June
you are right about victorian era.
this is why toshogu is not highly praised archtecture as well. abbot of yakushi ji temple discribed as "dressed whore" .
christian ; you did good work to find those victorian era
toro. : ) : )

by the way, Tokugaw Ieyasu and Toyotomi Hideyoshi become one of shinto god. most recently was general Nogi, war hero of Japan/ china war. befor Toyotomi Hideyoshi was Kusunoki
Masashige,,, mother of Kan ami was reletive of Kusunoki Masashige. Kan ami was in lowest social class Called "kawaramono"..... Kan ami was father of japanese performance art of "NO O" dance.... I will write more about
shinto god of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Toyotomi Hideyooshi.

I am studying How Toyotomi Hideyoushi as shogun /ruler of Japan become shinto god.... .... very intresting.
every time read more books and reserch we can find intresting history of our past...........mike

    Bookmark   February 25, 2004 at 9:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

At least I think it's metal? There's no sign of rust on this one - and it strikes me as very handsome.

Click here

    Bookmark   February 26, 2004 at 1:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

Looks like metal to me, Herb. The top looks like brass, and the rest looks like maybe brass washed with a silvered finish.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2004 at 1:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This is an assortment of stone and metal lanterns -

Click here

    Bookmark   February 26, 2004 at 2:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

The two on the right are very similar to the "plainer looking" ones at the Peabody Essex. Do you have any information about when those lanterns in the photo were made?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2004 at 2:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Cady - Alas, I have no idea when they were made. I just happened to come across the picture while I was searching (unsucessfully) for 'Rinnoji Garden' because I thought it might be an alternative spelling for 'Linnoji Garden' (of which I posted the woodblock picture). There is nothing on the Internet about 'Linnoji' but lots of sites about 'Rinnoji' - but so far, nothing resembling the woodblock.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2004 at 3:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

Those might be Edo lanterns. Just a guess. They look very much like the ones I mentioned from the Peabody Essex, which are early Meiji or late Edo.

It's great that so many relevant photos are floating around on the 'net.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2004 at 3:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
yama(7b Ga)

Hi Herb
thank you for posting photo.,,,,,,,,,mike

    Bookmark   February 26, 2004 at 9:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bubbaba248(Oceanside, CA)

I recently purchased two of these at an estate sale. What I have found out through researching the internet is that one of them is an old Japanese cast iron snow lantern, early 20th Century, Taisho period. It was used to keep snow from extinguishing the lighted candle inside. Often seen in tea gardens. The other lantern would most likely be from the same period.

The two are quite beautiful, I wish I knew how to include pictures. If anyone is interested in seeing photos, just email me at and I will send as many as you like.

Best Regards,


    Bookmark   September 13, 2004 at 4:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
LouisWilliam(Z5 MA)

Since this old post was brought to the surface, I'll add what I know about the technology of steel, bronze, iron, and steel. The development of stone lanterns was probably accelerated by the availability of better tools. A modern paralell is the recent availability of granite countertops at reasonable prices. It has nothing to do with granite but everything to do with the dissemination of man made diamonds for grinding the stone. However, stone (including granite) was successfully worked long before the advent of civilization in Western Asia. I have seen beautiful black granite carvings completed in Egypt 4000 years ago - with bronze tools. Probably slow, and reserved for royalty, but definitely possible.

As to the difference between iron and steel - it is a mistake to think that the iron age tool makers didn't know (without benefit of theory) how to harden their soft iron into very usefull cutting tools through carbon, fire, air, and other alloying elements. Some cultures valued meteorites as sources of high nickel alloys that were tougher than the bog iron they could make. I would contend that any culture that could cast iron into lanterns could easily produce reasonably durable tools to work stone, even granite. In short, the advent of Bessemer and continuous steel making has more to do with cheap steel than new material.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2004 at 10:42AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Please help! How can I save my 7' Fireglow??
I really hope someone can help me. I purchased a 7'...
Where can I find buyers for these large rocks/boulders?
Hi we are thinking to re-landscape our yard. The previous...
my little piece of japan (2)
what do you think ???
Your Japanese garden questions
There seems to be little new questions on this forum....
other varieties of cherry blossom trees?
I just planted two Kanzan and one Yoshino cherry blossom...
Sponsored Products
Tahoe Wall-Mount Lantern - Large Fixture - Regency Bronze
Signature Hardware
Central Park 1 Light Textured Black w/ Clear Beveled Panels Wall Lantern
Casa Oval Chandelier by Hinkley Lighting
$619.00 | Lumens
Kichler 380107 6 in. Universal Light Kit - 380107OBB
$42.46 | Hayneedle
Green & Bronze Onion Lantern
$19.99 | zulily
Savoy House Monte Grande Traditional Outdoor Hanging Lantern
75 Watt Standard Transformer by Hinkley Lighting
$219.00 | Lumens
Meridian Pendant Lamp
$497.99 | Dot & Bo
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™