“Backstage” Lighting Tour in China

Posted on Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

by Stephanie Julian and Jo Elliott

On the 26th September 2009 twelve lighting students, graduates and interested friends from the University of Sydney joined with industry colleagues and lighting academics for a technical and cultural visit to China. Led by Professor Warren Julian, the trip was designed to provide first hand knowledge and understanding of manufacturing, testing, research and an insight into the cultural differences of the art of architectural lighting in China.  

Luminaire Manufacturing:
RoLED, an LED manufacturing company located on the outskirts of Shanghai, was the group’s first stop. Everyone was pleasantly surprised to see the high quality of the manufacturing and testing practices that enable RoLED to meet the requirements of a variety of international lighting standards. The entertaining and knowledgeable owner/MD of the company, Rock Hsiung, drew on his obvious entrepreneurial talents in giving us a comprehensive overview and tour of his facilities.

Lamp Manufacturing:
As there are no longer any lamp manufacturers in Australia, it was a rare opportunity for us to view first hand the factors that influence the reliability and consistency of lamps was well as the technical difficulties associated with lamp production.   At Shanghai Dongli Co our group observed the manufacture of compact fluorescent and tubular fluorescent lamps, then at Yaming Co Ltd, the creation of high intensity discharge lamps.

Testing Equipment:
In the middle of an important and chaotic eight day national holiday in China, our group was privileged to enjoy a private visit to Everfine co. Ltd, the designers and manufacturers of precision measuring and testing equipment. With many of Everfine’s devices being used in lighting laboratories and studios across the world, this was an invaluable behind-the-scenes visit.

Visiting two of China’s leading universities also gave us a unique opportunity to strengthen relationships and gain insight into eclectic academic approaches. At Fudan the staff and students of the Faculty of Illuminating Engineering and Light Sources guided our group through their extensive lighting laboratories, and explained to us their various testing and measuring instruments as well as procedures. At a subsequent visit to Tongji University’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning, we discussed, with the students and staff, ideas that included a major focus on master planning and creative lighting design.  We also had the opportunity to experience the benefits of Tongji’s generously equipped lighting studio.

Cultural Differences Between China and Australia’s Approaches to Architectural Lighting Design:
During the 10 day visit our group viewed the lightscapes of Shanghai, Wuxi, Suzhou, Nanjing and Hangzhou and we realised that colour has a very important cultural significance in China. As a consequence of this insight, it not surprising that Chinese buildings are brightly and often colourfully lit, creating a sense of movement, excitement and occasion. Even the boats on the Huangpu River in Shanghai displayed amazing sequences of LED lighting, rivalling even the most audacious of the building displays. To a western eye many of these displays could be viewed as over the top. However, from a Chinese point of view, it is an alluring way to encourage people outdoors, to socialise and to enjoy the evening.

All of our collective observations during the tour promoted discussion and prompted ideas that could be capitalised on to enhance lighting design back home in Australia.

For me at least, the outstanding highlight of the lighting viewing on the tour was the evening cruise on West Lake in Hangzhou. To the backdrop of a full moon we were able to see the results of a lighting design that had been very well planned. Its aim was to create an appealing and aesthetically successful design for the Chinese people from both a practical and creative point of view.