Lacquerware is objects which are decoratively covered with lacquer which is sometimes inlaid or carved. Lacquerware includes boxes, tableware and even coffins painted with lacquer in cultures mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere.


Lacquer and producing lacquerware had been known to the Chinese since at least the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 BC – c. 1046 BC) era in China. This can be seen in the existing lacquerwares produced, mostly of ritual cups, dishes, and wooden chest boxes with a lacquer finish across the surface. Many of these priceless ancient Chinese or Japanese lacquer artifacts can be found in private collections and museums, such as the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington D.C..

Lacquer production was under way in northern Japan by 7,000 BC, as early Jōmon were managing various plant resources, suggesting the so-called varnish tree Rhus verniciflua was being managed [] . In Japan, the art of lacquerware-making came along with Buddhism and other cultural artifacts from China during the 8th century, and "carved lacquerware" came to Japan from Ming Dynasty China during the 14th century. [cite web|url=|title=Chinese Carved Lacquerware|author=Akio Haino|publisher=Kyoto National Museum|accessdate=2007-08-16]

Burmese lacquerware

"Yun-de" is lacquerware in Burmese, and the art is called "Pan yun". The lacquer is the sap tapped from the varnish tree Melanorrhoea usitatissima or "Thitsee" that grows wild in the forests of Myanmar (formerly Burma). [cite web|url=|title=Melanorrhoea usitatissima| online dictionary|accessdate=2007-03-31] It is straw-coloured but turns black on exposure to air. When brushed in or coated on, it forms a hard glossy smooth surface resistant to a degree effects of exposure to moisture or heat.


Bayinnaung's conquest and subjugation in 1555-1562 of Manipur, Bhamo, Zinme (Chiang Mai), Linzin (Lan Xang), and up the Taping and Shweli rivers in the direction of Yunnan brought back large numbers of skilled craftsmen into Burma. It is thought that the finer sort of Burmese lacquerware, called Yun, was introduced during this period by imported artisans belonging to the Yun or Laos Shan tribes of the Chiang Mai region. [cite book|url=|title=Burma|author=D.G.E. Hall|year=1960|publisher=Hutchinson University Library|pages=42]

Manufacture and design

Lacquer vessels, boxes and trays have a coiled or woven bamboostrip base often mixed with horsehair, and the thitsee may be mixed with ashes or sawdust to form a putty-like substance called "thayo" which can be scuplted. The object is coated layer upon layer with thitsee and thayo to make a smooth surface, polished and engraved with intricate designs, commonly using red, green and yellow colours on a red or black background. "Shwezawa" is a distinctive form in its use of gold leaf to fill in the designs on a black background.cite web|url=|title=A Path to Burmese Culture: The Art of Lacquer|first=Richard|last=Blurton|year=2002|publisher=The British Museum/Fathom|accessdate=2007-03-31] cite web|url=|title= Burmese Lacquerware Collection|publisher=Art Only|year=2006|accessdate=2007-03-31]

Palace scenes, scenes from the Jataka tales, and the signs of the Burmese Zodiac are popular designs and some vessels may be encrusted with glass mosaic or semi-precious stones in gold relief. The objects are all handmade and the designs and engraving done free-hand. It may take three to four months to finish a small vessel but perhaps over a year for a larger piece. The finished product is a result of teamwork and not crafted by a single person.


The most distinctive vessel is probably a rice bowl on a stem with a spired lid for monks called "hsun ok". "Lahpet ok" is a shallow dish with a lid and has a number of compartments for serving "lahpet" (pickled tea) with its various accompaniments. Stackable tiffin-carriers fastened with a single handle or "hsun gyaink" are usually plain red or black. "Daunglahn" are low tables for meals and may be simple broad based or have three curved feet in animal or floral designs with a lid. Water carafes or "yeidagaung" with a cup doubling as a lid, and vases are also among lacquerware still in use in many monasteries.

Various round boxes with lids, small and large, are known as "Yun-It" including ones for paan called "Kun-It" (betel boxes). "Yun titta" are rectangular boxes for storing various articles including "peisa" or palm leaf manuscripts when they are called "sadaik titta". Pedestal dishes or small trays with a stem with or without a lid are known as "kalat" for serving delicacies or offering flowers to royalty or the Buddha. Theatrical troupes and musicians have their lacquerware in costumes, masks, head-dresses, and musical instruments, some of them stored and carried in lacquer trunks. Boxes in the shape of a pumpkin or a bird such as the owl, which is believed to bring luck, or the "hintha" (Brahmani goose) are common too. Screens and small polygonal tables are also made for the tourist trade today.


Bagan is the major centre for the lacquerware industry where the handicraft has been established for nearly two centuries, and still practised in the traditional manner. Here a government school of lacquerware was founded in the 1920s. Since plastics, porcelain and metal have superseded lacquer in most everyday utensils, it is today manufactured in large workshops mainly for tourists who come to see the ancient temples of Bagan. At the village of Kyaukka near Monywa in the Chindwin valley, however, sturdy lacquer utensils are still produced for everyday use mainly in plain black.

Japanese lacquerware

Shikki urushi-ware is lacquerware in Japanese, the sounds of the name Shikki urushi-ware has two meaning of beautiful (uruwashi) and moist (uruoi).As coating lacquer on natural material of wood and paper, craftsmen need certain rather high humidity.
Japanese lacquerware is also called "Japan". [ 1. A black enamel or lacquer. or 2. An object decorated with this substance.]


Lacquer and producing lacquerware had been known to the Far East Asia. The art of lacquerware came with Buddhism into Japan from China.And in the Kamakura period, Japanese craftsman focused on carving the thick coated lacquer of Chinese style. Soon after craftsman thought about carving woods first and coating lacquer later.In such way, Japanese craftsman realized shorten time to make lacquerware and spread over widely in not only among priests of temples but warriors of samurai residences.

Japanese lacquerware characteristic to regions

Since the relocation of the capital from Nara, Kyoto, Kamakura and Edo (Tokyo) in the thousand of years were done, a variety of lacquerware is found all over the long island of Japan.The first on the list may be Wajima-nuri and Kamakura-bori, because of historical background.Very contemporary lacquerware may be Wagae-nuri, born in the town of Zushi neighbor to Kamakura.


* Michiko, Suganuma. [ "Japanese lacquerware"] .

ee also

*Ryukyuan lacquerware

External links

* [ "Lacquerware of East Asia"] at the Metropolitan Museum.
* [ "Lacquerware Stories"] at the Kyoto National Museum.
* [ "An excellent article explaining how Chinese Cracked Lacquer is created"]
* Kelly, Kristin. 2001. "The Extraordinary Museums of Southeast Asia", pp. 49-54. Harry Abrams, Inc.: New York. []
* [ URUSHIGEYOSHI - Alle Sou-nuno, honkataji, -arbeit]

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