Neon signs in Chinese culture

Does anyone know anything about the origins of neon signs as seen in Taiwan, Hong Kong etc in Chinese culture? Obviously neon signs weren’t around 100 years ago, but what were the cultural precedents? How far back does this all go? Do flags and other kinds of banners come into the picture (no pun intended)?

Neon signs were around 100 years ago, first demonstrated by Tesla in the late 19th century. In the context of a commercial neon sign in Chinese culture, the first outdoor neon sign was an ad and went up in Shanghai in 1927 – 80 years ago. That neon sign was just part of the trend towards commercialism in Shanghai that characterized the city from the 20’s onwards until the fall to the communists.

Don’t forget Japan. There was apparently more neon in in Tokyo in its naughty twenties than in the whole of the US.


100 years, 150 years, not much difference in the grand scheme.

How about the deeper cultural meaning and roots of this urban style that is common in several east Asian cultures?

I like neon signs. I had a good buddy who was a sign installer for a premier neon sign shop in San Francisco - it was an absolutely fascinating job; going all over the city and having access to so many places one rarely gets to see. And neon is a very interesting light tool. It can last about indefinitely if its tube remains sealed. There are different grades of neon - the best grades have the deepest colors and last the longest.