Tiantai Mountain Dry Lacquer Techniques

Tiantai Mountain Dry Lacquer Techniques



The dry lacquer technique is one of the traditional handicrafts in Mount Tiantai area.

Tiantai County is located in the central part of Zhejiang Province. Tiantai Mountain and Dalei Mountain provide rich forest resources for local people, including ramie, varnish tree and camphor tree, the raw materials needed for dry lacquer. The technique emerged before the East Jin Dynasty in Tiantai area. According to historical records, Dai Kui (336-396) and his son applied the dried lacquer technique to a wood carving of a Buddhist statue.

Dry lacquer is a unique technique using lacquer coat to protect and decorate the surface of various objects. 13 raw materials from Tiantai area are mixed into a paste and applied to an object's surface. After polishing, vermilion and gold foil are inlaid on the surface as decoration. The whole manufacturing process is all done by hand. The good quality of the raw materials ensures that the dry lacquer ware will not peel or crack. The technique has been applied to a lot of architecture all over China. Wood Buddhist statues are the finest examples of the technique.

Dry lacquer Buddhist statues have been an important part of the development of Buddhist culture around Mount Tiantai. In the Tang Dynasty, Monk Situo applied the technique in modeling a statue of Monk Jianzhen (an eminent Chinese monk of the Tang Dynasty who traveled to Japan in 753 to preach Buddhism), which is now being kept in Japan as a national treasure. The dry lacquer technique also plays an important role in restoring ancient architecture and preserving cultural artifacts.