Trip Review for China

Initial Period of Boom for Lacquer Working

There are lacquer works unearthed in many parts of China, including in Beijing, Henan, Hebei, Shandong, Shaanxi, Gansu and Anhui, which are served as material evidence to the initial period of boom for of lacquer working development.

Lacquer working peaked during the Warring States period, coinciding with a decline of bronze ware production. It was against this background that lacquer works, light in weight and more decorative, found their way into the life of the upper class. Numerous lacquer works produced during that period have been unearthed, and those unearthed from tombs of the Chu Kingdom are in the largest number and also are the most exquisite in workmanship.

Initial period of boom for lacquer working

The Chu Kingdom had under its jurisdiction parts of what is now Hubei and Hunan provinces in southern China, where forests of lacquer trees thrived in ancient times. Most lacquer works unearthed from Chu tombs are in perfect conditions, which archeologists and scientists attribute to favorable climatic and environmental factors. The area is humid and warm, making it difficult for cracks to form in the course of lacquer coating. Moreover, water in the area is chemically neutral, without much acid or alkali. Lacquer works identified as belonging to the Chu King include not only small things like cups, wine sets and boxes, but also much larger things, such as coffins, beds, hangers for musical chimes and bells. There are even weapons with lacquered surfaces. Red and black are the basic colors of lacquer works produced in the Chu Kingdom. People living at the time seemed to know that red and black lacquers, while forming a beautiful color contrast, are most chemically stable. Small things like cups mostly have the outside coated with black lacquer and the inside, with red lacquer. Lacquer paintings invariably have a black-and-red background, with the 151 lines done with lacquers diverse in color –– red, yellow, blue, white, as well as deep blue, green, brown, golden and silvery.

For centuries after the Han Dynasty collapsed, lacquer work s seemed to be elbowed out of people’s life by an increasing use of porcelain ware. Few lacquer works unearthed so far were products of the period from the end of the Han to the Song and Yuan dynasties. But lacquer works produced during a period from the Three Kingdoms to the Tang Dynasty are no inferior in workmanship to products produced earlier. In 1984, Some 80 lacquer paintings were unearthed from a tomb of the East Wu Kingdom at Ma’anshan, Anhui Province. These stunned the archeological world for superb workmanship and artistic value, which serve as important material evidence to study of traditional Chinese fine art.

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