Museum Hours
Thu: 1 PM–8 PM
Fri–Mon: 10 AM–5 PM
Tue–Wed: Closed
200 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Chinese Lacquerware

Nov 10, 2015 – Oct 23, 2016

Chinese Lacquerware introduces one of the most enduring and unique forms of craftsmanship in the world. Eight intricate pieces — made by top artisans to suit the refined tastes of the elite — make their debut in our galleries. 

The techniques used to create Chinese lacquer, seen in works from the 13th through 20th centuries, are awe-inspiring and invite closer examination. Some pieces are coated with more than 100 layers of lacquer, then carved to reveal a detailed relief. Meticulous applications of mother-of-pearl produce sprawling scenes with the scope of landscape paintings. Objects in these and other styles exemplify the aesthetics of Confucian scholars, who displayed this type of art in their studies.

Chinese lacquers feature historical figures, scholars, flower motifs and a variety of auspicious symbols. A round red Yuan-dynasty tray, for example, is elaborately decorated with peacocks flying through peony blossoms, an emblem of wealth and nobility. On another tray, a little boy depicted in mother-of-pearl inlay emerges from a lotus blossom, symbolizing the wish for many sons.

Get to know the rich history of this artistic tradition through a selection of compelling and distinctive pieces.

Love lacquer? Be sure to check out our presentation of Japanese lacquerware and our upcoming exhibition Mother-of-Pearl Lacquerware from Korea, opening in April.

Download a PDF of our 2008 publication The Conservation of Asian Lacquer: Case Studies at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.

Main image: Ovoid tray decorated with warriors in a landscape (detail), approx. 1300-1368. China, Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). Lacquer. Asian Art Museum, Gift of the Christensen Fund, BL77M15. Photograph © Asian Art Museum.

Organizers & Sponsors

Chinese Lacquerware is organized by the Asian Art Museum.