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Incised lacquer cup
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Sophisticated lacquer vessels have been excavated in China dating from the Shang period (about 1500-1050 вс), and high quality lacquers were produced in large quantities in the Warring States period (475-221 вс). By the Han dynasty (206 bc-ad 220), the lacquer industry was organized under government control and using early processes of mass production.

This cup is the product of that industry. An engraved inscription states that it was made for the emperor in ad 4 at the Western Factory workshop in Shu (now Sichuan province). It goes on to name the craftsmen responsible for each step of the manufacturing process: making the wooden core, lacquering, top-coat lacquering, gilding the ear handles, painting, and final polishing. It also names the inspectors, supervisors and deputies at the workshop. Lacquer requires many coats, with setting time between each, so specialization and assembly line production was well suited to its manufacture.

Incised lacquer cup


Made in China, Eastern Han dynasty, dated ad 4, found in Korea
D. 17.7 cm
Gift ofP.T. Brooke Sewell



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