Technique of Fuzhou Bodiless Lacquerware
Fuzhou is well known for "bodiless lacquerware", one of the "Three Treasures" of Chinese arts and crafts (the other two being Beijing cloisonn脙漏 and Jingdezhen porcelain).
The bodiless lacquerware starts with a body of clay, plaster or wood. Grass linen or silk is pasted onto it, layer after layer, with lacquer as the binder. The original body is removed after the outer cloth shell has dried in the shade. It is then smoothed with putty, polished, and coated with layers of lacquer. After being carved with colorful patterns, it becomes extremely light. Fuzhou bodiless lacquerware is moisture-proof, resistant to heat, acid and alkali, and its colour and luster are highly durable, adding beauty to its practical use.
Fuzhou bodiless lacquerware was created by Shen Shao"an during the Qing Dynasty. He was inspired in restoring the inscribed boards at temples and invented the technique. The bodiless red lacquered bowl Shen presented to the Qing measured 10cm in height, 10.8cm in diameter, with a thickness of less than 1mm. Emperor Qianlong was so delighted that he wrote a poem inside the bowl.
The technique of manufacturing bodiless lacquerware was passed down from generation to generation in the Shen family. After Shen Shao"an, the most successful lacquerware craftsmen were were Shen Zhenggao (1866 ~1928) and Shen Zhengxun, the fifth generation after Shen Shao"an. The bodiless lacqueware they made was sent to an international commodity exhibition in Paris in 1898, and won a golden medal. In the following years, their work won many awards from international exhibitions, as well as the approval of Empress Dowager Cixi. Fuzhou bodiless lacquerware thus became a favorite gift among royalty, government officials and foreign guests. Nowadays, bodiless lacquerware can be found in many famous museums around the world.