First emerging during the Shang and Zhou dynasties around 1600 – 256 BC, lacquer craft really forged its place in Chinese culture during the Han dynasty. So superbly made were these historical pieces that many recovered items retain their beautiful colors, despite being buried hundreds of years in many cases. Chengdu lacquer art is distinctive for its beautiful relief carvings; so distinctive, in large part, because the Sichuan Basin in Chengdu just happens to be the perfect location for lacquer trees to thrive. Lacquer extracted from the trees is a yellow-brown, and to this is added cinnabar to make what is widely recognized as a vibrant ‘China red’ hue.
Expect to pay a hefty price for a genuine Chengdu lacquer piece, so if upwards of thousands is out of your budget, at the very least take time to wander through a lacquer gallery store or two. It’s a totally worthwhile experience if only to gain an appreciation of the skills required to paint, emboss, embed, and polish each piece.