Lacquer, the resin of a family of trees found throughout southern China—as well as in Southeast Asia, Korea, and Japan—is an amazing material. When exposed to oxygen and humidity, lacquer hardens or polymerizes, becoming a natural plastic and an ideal protective covering for screens, trays, and other implements. Mixed with pigments, particularly cinnabar (red) and carbon (black), lacquer has been also used as an artistic media for millennia.
This installation, which features all of the most important examples of Chinese lacquer in the Museum's collection, explores the laborious techniques used to create scenes based on history and literature, images of popular gods and mythical and real animals, and representations of landscapes and flowers and birds.
The exhibition is made possible by the Joseph Hotung Fund.