We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Lacquerware‎?

By Andrea Cross
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Musical Expert is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Musical Expert, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Lacquerware are items that have been painted with a decorative material called lacquer. This style is thought to have originated in South Asia, where it is still produced in countries including China, Japan, and Burma, as well as Korea and Vietnam. These countries, while utilizing many of the same techniques and similar styles, have also developed their own characteristic elements of lacquerware.

Lacquer is made from sap extracted from the Rhus veniciflua tree. After the impurities are removed from the sap, artists add color in the form of oils or pigments, or they use the natural, rich, transparent brown color. Lacquer adds a range of finishes to a product, from matte to high gloss. Many successive coats are added, especially to carved pieces, making the process time-consuming and costly. Original laquerware was made almost exclusively from wood.

Original lacquerware was confined to practical items, such as buttons, boxes, and tableware. The coating of lacquer was not only decorative but also served to make the item sturdier and more resistant to water and heat damage. The evolution of lacquerware, while still often functional, has resulted in a mainly aesthetic product and is used for a wide variety of items, including housewares and art. The material under the lacquer has also widened in scope, with bamboo and horsehair commonly providing bases.

China is credited with being the earliest known source of lacquerware, with pieces discovered as belonging to periods as early as the neolithic. Many current techniques and styles evolved from what Chinese manufacturers first produced. Pictorial designs, including birds, animals, and flowers, are popular examples of this.

Carved patterns that require many layers of lacquer are also thought to be originally of Chinese origin. They are also credited with first incising the surface layers and inlaying not only different colors of lacquer but gold, sliver, and mother-of-pearl. Finally, it is also thought the Chinese were the first to lay down gold and silver images onto items before covering them with glossy lacquer layers.

The Japanese, who are also touted as being very early producers of lacquerware, built on the techniques developed by the Chinese. One of their most notable contributions was the addition of powdered gold or silver to the lacquer, a style called makie. They also experimented with building up layers on focal parts of the piece rather than evenly on the entire surface. Japanese artists used lead, tin, and pewter for inlay. In Japan, lacquerware was considered to be more of an art form and symbol of status rather than functional decoration.

Burmese artisans use a different type of tree for their lacquer sap, Gluta usitata. This sap provides the characteristic look of traditional Burmese pieces. Originally straw-colored, the sap turns black when exposed to air and produces a hard, smooth surface that has a rich and glossy shine. The special style of Korean lacquerware is to inlay mother-of-pearl in combination with tortoise shell. Similarly, Vietnam is also known for its unique inlays of seashells and eggshells.

Musical Expert is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.