The concept of the umbrella has long preceded its invention. Man has been consumed by his necessity and obsession for shelter, comfort and convenience since the beginning of time



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The concept of the umbrella has long preceded its invention. Man has been consumed by his necessity and obsession for shelter, comfort and convenience since the beginning of time. It is only natural that he would want to have these simple, often taken for granted, luxuries with him at all times. The umbrella is the embodiment of those luxuries in a portable and easy to use device. The umbrella can be used for either protection from severe weather elements or from the sun. When it is used against severe weather elements, such as rain and sleet, it is referred to as an umbrella. The word umbrella comes from the Latin word umbra, which means shadow. However, when it is used as protection against the sun, it is referred to as a parasol. The word parasol is derived from para, meaning stop, or against, and sol, which means sun; para (stop)-sol (sun). Furthermore, no one knows exactly when or where the first umbrella was invented; archeologists and historians best guesses are either Ancient Egypt or Ancient China. Even though the umbrella was invented many thousands of years ago, it has survived relatively unchanged to the modern day because of it is the single best thing at doing what it does. In addition to its competitive dominance, the concept of the umbrella has helped build associations that have been essential to its survival. I acknowledge that there are many ways to unpack the umbrella: fashion, comfort, convenience, literature, art, and so on. I will be focusing on how the umbrella has survived throughout the ages because of its relationship will religion, royalty and its duality with the parasol up until the destruction of cultural norms in England and new production techniques propel the umbrella into a household name.
ORIGINS
Ancient Egypt, possibly the birthplace of the umbrella, has such a rich history that we cannot know for sure when exactly the umbrella comes into existence. What we do know is that the umbrella was more popular as a parasol and mostly used by royalty and priests. These umbrellas were extremely heavy and their intricate designs made them cumbersome to carry. Some of the earliest examples that prove they existed date around 1200 BCE. However, Ancient Egypt’s relationship with umbrellas is much deeper than that.

“The Egyptians believed the sky was formed by the body of their celestial goddess Nut, who spanned the Earth, touching it only with her toes and finger-tips. Shy, The Egyptian equivalent to Atlas, supported Nut with one hand on her breast, the other on her mid-thigh, so that her star-spangled belly formed the arch of the heavens” (19, Crawford).



These two look like a giant umbrella, and it is from this that the concept of the umbrella as a symbol of religion grew. In addition, the umbrella was very important because of its relationship with the Khabit, or shadow. The Ancient Egyptian’s believed that a person’s generative powers lie in their Khabit, which is a crucial part for their resurrection in the afterlife. Since the umbrella was so closely related to the Ancient Egyptian’s concept of heavens and afterlife, it should come as no surprise that royalty adopted it as a sign of their sovereignty. The royal colors are red, yellow and blue. Umbrellas would often be carried by servants over their master’s heads, but for longer trips, and in times of war, they could be fastened to their chariots. The umbrella will always have a place in Egypt because of its associations with religion and royalty, as well as its ability to shield people from the scorching Egyptian sun. In addition, the Egyptians are thought to be responsible for the spread of the umbrella northward into southern Europe, especially Portugal. Anc. Egypt hieroglyph PIC, seen everyone from graves to hunting to drawings.
Ancient China, like Ancient Egypt, has a rich history with umbrellas and is also thought to be the birthplace of the umbrella. A book of ancient Chinese ceremonies, the "Tcheou-Li, or The Rites of Tcheou," says that upon the imperial cars the “dais” should be placed. "The figure of this dais contained in the Chinese edition of Tcheou-Li, and the particular description of it given in the explanatory commentary of Lin-hi-ye, both identify it with an Umbrella” (Sangster). In addition, the umbrella can be found in the tomb of Wang Kuang, circa 25 BCE, as well as many others before and after him. Although no one knows for certain whether it was Egypt or China who first invented the umbrella, it was the Chinese who invented the first collapsible umbrella and were the first to waterproof them by waxing the material. The early Chinese umbrellas were made of oiled paper and bamboo, and the staff would be hollowed in a specific way to allow it to open and close like a modern day telescope, thus creating the collapsible umbrella. One way the Chinese and Egyptians differ is that it was commonly accepted for Chinese people of all classes to have an umbrella. However, it was very easy to tell people apart because royalty and high-ranking officials usually had servants carry their umbrellas for them, which were made of the finest silk and decorated with gems and precious metals compared to the commoners bamboo and cloth umbrella. Yellow is China’s royal color, only royalty could possess a yellow umbrella in the court; all other honorary umbrellas in were either red or blue. Furthermore, one of the largest factors in the shaping of the umbrella in China, namely its design and symbolism, took place in the 7th century with by arrival of Buddhism. The umbrella was one of Buddha’s eight treasures of the world, and symbolized the heavens. Instances of the umbrella can be seen throughout various ceremonies, and were particularly evident at funerals. There were different umbrella types that indicated the rank of the deceased, blue and white silk with yellow dragons for upper class and similar fashions except with cloth for the lower class. In addition, it was customary to burn a red umbrella thirty-five days after a funeral. Spawning from religious symbolism, the umbrella soon became engrained in the modern architecture of the country. The umbrella shape can be seen in the Stupa and Peshawar, which later turned into the Chinese pagoda. Lastly, the Chinese are accredited with the rise of the umbrella in neighboring territories due to their influence as well as Europe via the Silk Road.

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