Sunday, June 15, 2008

China Day 16: Lacquerware? Lacquer where? There, lacquerware!

We have half a day left in Xi'an, and we mean to make the most of it! We hit the ground (well, the bus) running and rode off to our first stop: a lacquerware factory.
This factory produces really stunning lacquered screens, tables, cabinets and other stuff, and we wandered around the front of the shop for a while, just admiring. Then we got a demonstration of the process: you take a pine board and wrap it in linen. Then you cover it with several coats of lacquer paste followed by 30 coats of natural lacquer, which is the sap of a particular tree. Lacquer starts out more or less colorless but it turns brown, then black, when it oxidizes in the air.

Next you decorate your object with paint, inlaid mother-of-pearl, or onlaid jade to form cranes, ancient court ladies, or whatever designs you wish.
The jade scraps come from jade factory leftovers; no unnecessary waste. The jade used to be inlaid, but now they use Superglue! Then follows a minimum of ten coats of clear lacquer; we were told the resulting furniture is waterproof and heatproof - no need to use coasters, but I wonder if I would have the courage to just set my glass of iced tea down on a $10,000 table...
We wandered the showroom on overload for a while:
I played the "If I had a million dollars what would I buy?" game and one lady actually bought a chest of drawers - I can't imagine what she paid for it!

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