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Decorative Designs in Chinese Art 中国文物的纹饰

Lacquer Ware 漆器

Lacquer Ware 漆器

Lacquer ware artifacts are made from wood or silk skeletons with several to dozens of coats of lacquer. In some cases, up to two hundred layers have been applied. Lacquer ware dates back to pre-historic times in China. The oldest piece is a bowl from the Hemudu Culture 河姆渡文化 in present day Zhejiang province and dates to about 5,000 BCE. Lacquer ware utensils were popular with the noble classes in the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties. The lacquer used is resistant to acid deterioration and has enabled the artifacts to survive relatively well. Many lacquer artifacts have survived from the Warring States period in tombs in excellent condition. The Kingdom of Chu during the Warring States period was on of the most prolific producers of lacquer artifacts.

box
雕漆花卉 嘉靖 (1521〜1567在位北京首都博物馆 Round carved lacquer box with floral and crane decoration Jiājì​ng Reign, Qing Dynasty (1521-1567), Capital Museum, Beijing

The lacquer was derived from lac trees 漆树 that are common in Hubei and Hunan. The basic background colors are red and black with decorations painted done in more diverse colors. Lacquer ware art reached its peak during the reign of Qianlong during the Qing. The plate below is a plate from the Qianlong reign.

brocade / embroidered work
乾隆(1736〜1795北京首都博物馆 Red lacquer ware plate with brocade design and copper edging Qianlong Reign, Qing Dynasty (1736-1795), Capital Museum, Beijing

The picture below shows a landscape scene on a carved lacquer screen.

Carved lacquerware screen
雕漆台屏 民国公元1911〜1949苏州博物馆 Carved lacquer ware screen Republic of China (1911-1949), Suzhou Museum

Because of the many layers and the need to dry each layer before applying the next, the best lacquer ware can take up to ten years to produce.

carved lacquer ware
雕漆牡丹 北京首都博物馆 Square red carved lacquer ware peony plate Capital Museum, Beijing

Lacquer ware is frequently inlaid with gold, silver, mother-of-pearl, ivory, and other materials. The artifact below is decorated with inlaid gold.

a basket / a basket that can be carried
藏族描金花卉纹提篮 20世纪上半叶 云南 上海博物馆 Tibetan lacquer ware basket with gold leaf and floral design Late 20th century, Yunnan, Shanghai Museum

Tibetan art is unique in combing elements of Indian and Chinese art with an emphasis on strange and sometimes scary Tantric Buddhism and drawing on roots in Tibetan folk religion. The Yamantaka 牛头明王, a Tantric Buddhist diety and Tibetan favorite, is typically intimidating.

Yamantaka
藏族牛头明王面具 20世纪上半叶 青海贵德 上海博物馆 Tibetan lacquer Yamantaka mask used in Cham dance Late 20th century. Guide, Qinghai; Shanghai Museum

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