Beijing carved lacquer art, a representative projects of intangible cultural heritage in the traditional skills category in Shunyi District, Beijing.
Beijing carved lacquer art is an important part of traditional Chinese art. The existence of carved lacquer art enriches people's spiritual life, is a good way and carrier to inherit traditional culture, and has unique artistic value and cultural representation.
Chinese lacquer craft was born more than 7,000 years ago, as evidenced by the red lacquer bowl unearthed from the Hemudu culture site. During the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, the production and decoration techniques of lacquerware were highly developed. The physical evidence of carved lacquer can be traced back to the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties, while the written records can be found in the Tang Dynasty. The carved lacquer art of the Sui and Tang dynasties was gorgeous, while that of the Song Dynasty emphasized elegance and rationality. The Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties were the historical periods of great development of carved lacquer art.
The manufacturing of carved lacquer in the Yuan Dynasty was concentrated in the Jiaxing area. In the early Ming Dynasty, due to the increasing demand for the palace and national ceremonies, the "Guoyuan Factory" was established in the inner court of the palace to manufacture carved lacquer. In the Qing Dynasty, the Qianlong Emperor established the Zhaobanchu, and the production of carved lacquer reached its peak. A large number of furniture and thrones of the emperor were made of carved lacquer. In the late Qing Dynasty, due to political turmoil and economic decline, the demand for carved lacquerware in the palace sharply decreased, and the art of carved lacquer was almost lost.
However, with the continuous flow of treasures from the Qing Palace into the market and becoming the target of enthusiastic foreign buyers, the production of carved lacquer art rose again among the people. In 1904, the lacquer artists Xiao Lean and Li Maolong founded "Jigu Zhai" in Beijing. After generations of efforts by carved lacquer artists, Beijing carved lacquer continued to innovate and develop, forming its own style.
After the founding of the People's Republic of China, under the organization and leadership of the Beijing Municipal Government, the successors of Jigu Zhai carved lacquer scattered among the people were gathered and formed the Beijing Carved Lacquer Production Cooperative. In 1958, it was transformed into the Beijing Carved Lacquer Factory, becoming the main battlefield for the inheritance and development of Beijing carved lacquer craftsmanship. The scale and output of carved lacquer production greatly exceeded that of the past, and played a great role in the economic construction of the country at that time. With the changes of the times, the Beijing Carved Lacquer Factory no longer exists, but the new generation of successors have spread to all corners of the country, settling in Shunyi and orderly inheriting the art, which will surely carry it forward.
As an intangible cultural heritage, Beijing carved lacquer has a wide variety of types and rich themes. Its design and creation combine carving, painting, and craftsmanship, and has a solemn and elegant artistic style. The rich and colorful auspicious patterns carry people's expectations and yearning for a better life, which is also the reason why the art of carved lacquer has been continuously inherited for 1,500 years. In 2019, Beijing carved lacquer art was selected as one of the representative projects of intangible cultural heritage in the seventh batch of Shunyi District, Beijing.