Chinese Lacquer – A Treasure from Nature

Around 7000 years ago, ancient Chinese has started using liquid of an amazing tree to protect wood from rotten by applying a thin and hard coat.  They also found it beautiful with glossy look.  The tree is called lacquer tree growing throughout Southern China.  From a small cut of tree bark the sap dripping and being collected, which is raw Chinese lacquer.  Lacquer hardens or polymerizes when exposed to oxygen and humidity, turning into a natural protective covering for wood, metal or other materials.     

Over thousands of years, ancient Chinese people continued to develop lacquer skills and invented dozens of techniques, including extremely complicated one of over 150 steps procedure.  Mixing pigments of cinnabar and carbon, lacquer was transformed into red and black, two main colors of Chinese lacquer ware. 

Chinese lacquer was originally used for small items due to low production.  It was then expanded to furniture and other bigger items with better techniques.  Different from chemical lacquer, Chinese lacquer not only gives furniture natural color and attractive gloss but also is highly durable.  Chinese antique furniture with lacquer coating maintains original color for long time with natural and gradual fading.  Some even have attractive turtle shell pattern, resulting from natural unity of lacquer and wood structure.  Chemical lacquer normally leads to chipping and peeling in short time period.  Wood under Chinese lacquer surface remains strong attributing to lacquer’s performance of anti-moisture, anti-temperature change and anti-corrosion.