Lacquerware, objects decoratively covered with lacquer, is one of the intangible cultural heritages of Yangzhou city, originated from the imperial desire for more wealth and greater power. It is a time-consuming and painstakingly delicate craft which requires costly materials and used in ancient frescoes and furniture.
The lacquer is sometimes inlaid or carved. Lacquerware includes boxes, tableware, buttons and even coffins painted with lacquer, mostly from East Asian cultures.
An inheritor of Yanzhou lacquerware was invited to Washington DC to take part in a cultural open day in August, putting on display and representing some of the finest traditional Chinese craftsmanship.
Zhang Laixi, an inheritor of Yangzhou intangible culture heritages, is an expert in the field of lacquerware, a Chinese craft and luxury enjoyed by ancient Chinese monarchs since the Shang Dynasty (1600 – 1046 BC).
Early 3,000 years ago in China, sophisticated lacquer process techniques had developed into a highly artistic craft. After 1949, carved lacquerware went from being displayed exclusively at royal palaces to being available to ordinary people and has since become a national handicraft that is now shared around the world.
A typical Yangzhou carved lacquer design. [Photo/provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
During his visit, Zhang demonstrated many of the skillsets involved in creating lacquerware, such as designing and carving.
It can take six to 12 months to make an ordinary piece of carved lacquerware and even longer to complete a specially designed custom piece.
Zhang said that his work had a received a lot of potential interest from American customers during his visit.
"They appreciate the beauty of the arts and the craftsmanship spirit which translates it," said Zhang.
Zhang Laixi hard at work. [Photo/provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
According to Zhang, some American cultural industry experts may visit Yangzhou in September this year, and it is very possible that Yangzhou carved lacquer will enter the American market.