Comparative study of the materials and lacquering techniques of the lacquer objects from Warring States Period China

Publication date: February 2020

Source: Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 114

Author(s): Yingchun Fu, Zifan Chen, Songluan Zhou, Shuya Wei


In recent decades, a number of important high quality lacquer objects have been excavated from archaeological sites dating to the Warring States Period (481-221 BC), indicating the significance of the lacquer objects in that time. In order to better understand the lacquering techniques in this period, two types of lacquer objects from the Jiuliandun tomb were studied by using thermally assisted hydrolysis–methylation pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (THM-Py-GC/MS), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and scanning electron microscopy/energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry (SEM-EDS). The results revealed that a multi-layer lacquering technique was used to create the lacquer objects. Urushiol and drying oils were identified in the pigmented surface finish layer and lacquer layer, but different drying oils were identified in the ear cups and box, respectively. In addition, blood was found in the ground layer of ear cups. The results were compared with the lacquer objects from other Chu tomb, indicating that a variety of lacquering techniques were used during the Warring States period, perhaps depending on the different functions of the lacquer objects or simply reflecting different traditions.