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Lacquer wears

        Lacquer is the sap tapped from the lacquer tree which is grown and grows wild in the southern and central China. Dried and kept in the humid atmosphere, it provides a hard, smooth, lustrous, protective and preservative coating, resistant to water, heat and acids. Colors include a range of reds (from cinnabar), black (from iron sulphate), various shade of brown, gold and silver. Lacquer can be applied to almost any material. Pinewood and hemp-cloth form the most usual bases, but others include metal, porcelain and basket ware.


   1. Painted lacquer

       Lacquer was used as paint on carved wood in the Shang dynasty, sometimes with surface decoration in a different colored lacquer. Han dynasty boxes, cups, etc. excavated near Changsha, Hunan, are painted in red on black and vice versa. Some also have white, yellow and green decoration. Made in factories, each piece was handling by many specialized workers. The painted basket, from a tome in Lolang, Korea, is famous example of Han painted lacquer. The technique was gradually superseded by caving and inlay, or was used in conjunction with them. Gold lacquer was used for painted decoration increasingly in the later dynasties, especially for furniture.

  2. Carved lacquer

       This was the most common technique used from the Yang dynasty onwards. The lacquer was applied to the base in as many as 100 to 200 years. As each coat took several days to dry, it could be carved lacquer is red, but black, buff, green, and yellow pieces are also known. In 15th-century carved red lacquers a layer of black indicated to the carver when he was close to the base. In another Ming group, known by the Japanese term guri lacquer, or carver’s carved marbled lacquer’, the lacquer was applied in layers of different colors and craved in scrolling or geometric design to reveal the various strata. The most common combination is black-red-black, but more layers and colors could be used. Notable among the Qing carved lacquers are the so-called “Coromandel” screens, exported to the West, whose designs were carved in relief and painted, or carved in intaglio

   3. Inlaid lacquer

       Mother-of-pearl was the material most commonly inlaid in lacquer. Tang dynasty specimens survive in Nara, Japan. The Yuan dynasty technique of surrounding the pieces of shell, by now thinner and sometimes tinted, with gilt wire to stop chipping was adopted from Korea. Gold and silver wire and foil were also used for inlay. In the technique known as qiangin, first made in the early 14th century, the decoration were etched with a needle and filled with gold. This technique was popular in the 15th century, but later, lacquer on which the design was filled in with lacquer of one or more different colors were preferred. “Folk lacquer” of this type could be further decorated, and imprecision disguised with painting. Black lacquer inlaid with mother-of-pearl is known as lac burgaute. Other inlay materials include jade, soapstone, bone and ivory.

   4. Dry lacquer

       This technique is called jiazhu in China. The figure or form required was shaped using cloth impregnated with lacquer. When this had dried and stiffened, additional coats of lacquer could then be applied. Large images could thus be made extremely light.






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