Known as one of the “three treasures of Chinese arts and crafts” along with Hunan embroidery and Jiangxi Jingdezhen porcelain, Bejing carved lacquer Ware is famous throughout the world for its unique techniques and detailed carvings.
Beijing’s carved lacquer ware is one of China’s traditional arts and crafts. Originated in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Beijing carved lacquer is a traditional form of Chinese art that has existed for at least 1,400 years. It used to be made only for the royal family.
The lacquer ware is simple and unsophisticated in shape with cinnabar luster, delicate in engraving and characterized by anti-dampness, heat-resistance, endurance of acid and alkali corrosion.
More than thirty different kinds of goods were traditionally produced, including everyday items such as vases, plates, boxes and jars, and decorative objects such as screens.
In the past they were made in only four colors, but the number of colors has increased to over 20 today. Older pieces are invariably monochrome, but polychrome pieces are now being produced. Nevertheless, the traditional dark red monochrome ware is still the most common.
Carving techniques include relief and fretwork. The carving is delicate and precise, and often achieves a three-dimensional effect. Lacquer ware is prized for its lasting qualities, the result of the painstaking procedures used in its creation.
Beijing carved lacquer ware requires a complicated manufacturing process, which starts with a brass or wooden body. After preparation and polishing, it is coated with several dozen of layers of lacquer, reaching a total thickness of 5 to 18 millimeters. Engravers have to wait for the lacquer to dry naturally so it won’t crack in the future. Then, engravers will cut into the hardened lacquer, creating “carved paintings” of landscapes, human figures, flowers and birds. It is then finished by drying and polishing. The whole making process is rather complex and time consuming. It usually takes at least 6-8 months to finish a piece of carved lacquer ware. The resulting lacquer is waterproof, looks noble and elegant, and its color never fades.
The carved lacquer has once won the prizes home and abroad for many times. It was once awarded the first prize in World Expo held in Panama in 1915 and has become reputed in the world market ever since.
However, nowadays, the ancient industry is on the brink of extinction. The complicated manufacturing process and the high production cost have resulted in the high price of the carved lacquer ware, and consequently a decreasing demand for it on the market. The Beijing carved lacquer ware industry has seen a rapid decrease since the 1980s. Young people are reluctant to learn the skills of lacquer-carving, and many elders in the business have passed away. by Xiao Xiao email@example.com
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