Lacquer is the sap from the sumac, or lacquer, tree. It has been used in China for decorative purposes since the Han Dynasty (618 to 907 A.D.)
Basically, lacquerwork is produced by applying very many coats of lacquer over a mould until the required form is created. It lends itself to a wide variety of decorative techniques.
Two uniquely Chinese techniques are coromandel and cinnabar.
Coromandel, which is often used for furniture and screens, is produced by applying a base of clay to the item, carving the design into the clay and then painting it with several coats of coloured lacquer.
Cinnabar refers to the red, deeply carved lacquer often used for vases and ornaments. In its most elaborate form, layers of different coloured lacquer are applied. A coloured design is then created by carving the lacquer to varying depths.