Where Did Lacquerware Originate? An Interesting History

Red Lacquerware Vase

Lacquerware is traditionally found throughout Asia. But experts do not always agree on where lacquerware originates from.

Lacquerware originated from China; some lacquerware has been found to come from 10,000 BC. The Chinese brought the lacquerware technique to many other parts of Asia, in particular Japan and Vietnam. Each country has developed its own lacquerware techniques, colors, and shapes.

So even though lacquerware originated in China, it is still unique to each country where it is manufactured. This is one reason why lacquerware has an interesting history and so many unique looks and finishes.

Red Carved Lacquerware Bowl
Qing Dynasty Red Lacquerware Box l Example.

Lacquerware and China

Lacquerware is originally from China. The Chinese then brought lacquerware production to other parts of Asia, such as Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

Items covered in lacquer have been found in China dating to the Neolithic period, 10,000 BC. There is Chinese lacquerware found during the Warring States Period (475–221 B.C.) using elaborate decoration.

In China, lacquerware took on two different forms – lacquer with decorative paintng and carved lacquer; rarely are these two technqiues of lacquerware painting and carving used in combination. The Chinese also started using surface decorations such as inlays with their lacquerware.

The earliest Chinese lacquerware objects were mainly black and red in color, also sometimes cinnabar or charcoal grey. The traditional Chinese lacquerware was quite a volatile paint substance to use; only a few other additional coloring agents could be combined with it for quite a long time.

During the 10th century, there evolved to be other techniques with Chinese lacquerware, such as carved and then gilded with gold. The art of inlaying with mother pearl was also developed during the Song Dynasty (960-1127) in China.

The carving of lacquerware is a uniquely Chinese achievement in the look and way it is produced. The Chinese lacquerware carving technique flourished in the 13th to 15th Centuries.

What do you look at all these different techniques that the Chinese developed, you can see how the Chinese lacquerware has influenced other parts of Asia. For example, Vietnam produces a lot of inlaid mother of pearl. Japan does a lot of painting on their lacquerware.

It can be said that the Chinese really did influence lacquerware production throughout all of Asia. Even though lacquerware originates from China, other parts of Asia helped refine and develop lacquerware production to new levels.

4 small japanese lacquerware boxes
Japanese lacquerware boxes,this shows the Japanese style of lacquerware.

Lacquerware and Japan

You can not speak about lacquerware without talking about Japanee lacquerware. The Japanese viewed lacquerware decoration differently than the Chinese. For Japanese lacquerware, the shape of the lacquered object is paramount to the entire art form.

The earliest lacquerware comes from Japan’s Nara Period (538 -794).

During this Nara period, the Japanese lacquerware began to take on a more decorative form and purpose. It was also when Japanese lacquerware started to become more refined with delicate gold and silver patterns.

Throughout history, the Japanese appreciated the durability of lacquerware. So artisans began to use lacquer to coat many different materials such as wood, pottery, and baskets. They used lacquer to ensure these items were long-lasting and durable.

Over the years, Japanese lacquerware has started to take upon many different types of production techniques that are uniquely Japanese. In the 17th century, lacquer was applied to layers of paper molds.

The Japanese also started adding pigment to their lacquer paints to have more color choices such as red, black, brown, green, and yellow.

In the true spirit of Zen decoration, the Japanese would use the lacquer as a topcoat for the wood so that the natural beauty of the wood would show through.

The Japanese have consistently developed their lacquerware techniques. Japanese lacquerware is even very popular today.

Vietnamese Water Puppets
Vietnamese Lacquerware Water Puppets

Lacquerware and Vietnam

Vietnam is another example of a place where the Chinese taught the Vietnamese how to manufacture lacquerware. Today, you can see many lacquer villages outside Hanoi, Vietnam, where the families have been producing lacquerware for literally hundreds of years.

Like the Japanese artisans, the Vietnamese craftsman also understood that lacquer could be a durable product. It was prevalent for people to have lacquerware items as it was cheaper than many other alternatives, such as brass or ceramic.

Vietnamese produce intricate water puppets out of lacquerware for their water puppet shows. These water puppets are carved from wood, and then lacquer is placed on them. This is why some of the Vietnamese lacquer is also waterproof in that they will use a waterproofing technique when they produce the lacquerware.

To discover more about Vietnamese lacquerware, you can read What Is Vietnamese Lacquerware? 11 Unknown Lacquerware Facts by clicking here.

At Mondoro, we really appreciate the unique look and feel of lacquerware. We are producing lacquerware in many of the handicraft villages outside Hanoi Vietnam.

We go into these villages, and we help teach these highly skilled craftsmen trendy looks, colors, and techniques; this helps them keep their lacquerware skills alive.

If you are interested in finding out more about how Mondoro can help you create, develop, and manufacture great home decor and home furniture products, including lacquerware, please contact me, Anita. at my email by clicking here or become a part of our community and join our newsletter by clicking here.

Mondoro gives out a FREE Lookbook to anyone who is interested. You can receive a copy of our latest Lookbook by clicking here.

How to Manufacture Vietnamese Lacquerware?

Vietnamese lacquer requires many manufacturing steps in the lacquer production process, including making the base, then preparing the lacquer base to be applied, to finally applying the lacquer paint onto the surface. Every piece must be carefully sanded to give it a very smooth surface. Vietnamese lacquerware production requires a lot of skill and knowledge.

To learn more you can read How to Manufacture Vietnamese Lacquerware? An Insider’s Guide to Lacquer by clicking here.

Why Is It Called Mother Of Pearl?

The name mother used in Mother of Pearl is thought to come from a nearly obsolete meaning of mother, which means “scrum, drugs or leftover fifth.” This would be because the Mother of Pearl comes from the leftover shell of the oyster, clam, or mussel. The scientific name for Mother Of Pearl is nacre.

You can discover more about Why Is It Called Mother Of Pearl? Pearls and Mother of Pearls by clicking here.

Anita Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Hummel. I am the President of Mondoro. I am passionate about helping you CREATE, DEVELOP, and MANUFACTURE home decor and home furnishing products. I am also an avid blogger with a love of travel and riding my motorcycle around the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam.

Recent Posts

Lacquerware History Explained.