Tra­di­tional art form pur­sues mod­ern lus­ter

Shanghai Daily - - PHOTO STORY - Cao Yunyi

Re­garded as one of “the three spe­cial­ties of Guizhou” along with the bam­boo flute and the province’s sig­na­ture white wine, Dafang lac­quer­ware is known the world over for its del­i­cacy and beauty.

The his­tory of the art form can be traced back more than 600 years to when a so­phis­ti­cated process was de­vel­oped dur­ing Ming Dy­nasty (1368-1644).

Each piece of lac­quer­ware needs to go through some 50 pro­cesses and 80 dec­o­ra­tive fin­ishes, such as en­grav­ing and gild­ing, and lay­ing on lac­quer of a dif­fer­ent color.

Lac­quer­ware is of­ten molded on a base of horse or buf­falo hide, shaped af­ter be­ing soaked in wa­ter be­fore be­ing dried over a fire. The process is not only time­con­sum­ing but re­quires great skill. Only mas­ters with years of ex­pe­ri­ence are up to the task.

Dafang County may be home to one of China’s five most highly re­garded styles of lac­quer, but there has been a drop in out­put in re­cent years.

“Lack of funds and a re­sul­tant de­cline in profit are the ma­jor rea­sons,” says Zhang Yu, of the county bureau of in­dus­trial econ­omy and en­ergy.

“But the so­phis­ti­cated crafts­man­ship in­volved in mak­ing Dafang lac­quer­ware is in­com­pa­ra­ble.”

“We are work­ing to in­crease in­vest­ment and seek­ing co­op­er­a­tions to en­sure the art form’s sur­vival,” he adds.

Che Dan, di­rec­tor of the Dafang of­fice of cul­tural in­dus­try, says, “Tra­di­tional skills and con­cepts need to seek new op­por­tu­ni­ties like com­bin­ing lac­quer­ware with mod­ern fur­ni­ture.

“There is also po­ten­tial to ex­pand con­sump­tion in through tourism.”

Gao Yan adds the fin­ish­ing flour­ishes to a lac­quer vase. Gao is a master of Dafang lac­quer­ware, an ir­re­sistible part of China’s cul­tural her­itage.

Gao bur­nishes the lid of a lac­quer pot to bring the sur­face to the high­est sheen.

Dafang lac­qure­ware is molded on a base of horse or buf­falo hide, soaked in wa­ter, and then dried over a fire — an art form for over 600 years.

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