Institute of Archaeology


Julie Chang

A Cross-Disciplinary Approach to Chinese Lacquer Technology


Email: julie.chang.14@ucl.ac.uk
Section: Archaeological Sciences



A Cross-Disciplinary Approach to Chinese Lacquer Technology

Lacquer manufacture has a long and continuing tradition in Asia, with China representing one of the oldest lacquer making traditions. The production of Asian lacquer is based on the use of the Anacardiaceae family trees' sap. Chinese lacquer in particular is traditionally thought to be collected from only Toxicodendron vernicifluum, however recent studies at the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) has challenged this common assumption. The GCI's scientific analysis showed that lacquer obtained from Toxicodendron succedaneum, which is commonly referred to as Vietnamese or laccol lacquer were discovered on large numbers of Chinese exported lacquer ware (Heginbotham & Schilling 2009). The diversity of manufacturing techniques used with Chinese lacquer is therefore much greater than was previously understood. The discovery of laccol lacquer on Chinese object appears to be just the tip of the iceberg. Through studies of historical of contemporary literature and comparative investigation of modern lacquer production, it becomes clear that numerous additives may have been included during historical lacquer manufacturing. However, detailed study to reveal each additive's functional purpose and the conservation implications have not been carried out.

This research will aim to examine the different additives included in historical Chinese lacquer through historic documentations, scientific investigation, and conservation research. By combining a scientific approach with a humanistic approach, this research seeks to characterize the composition of Chinese Lacquer objects in order to assess their vulnerability over time, and therefore suitable conservation responses.


  • MSc, Conservation for Archaeology and Museums (Distinction), UCL, 2011
  • MA, Principles of Conservation (Distinction), UCL, 2009


Chang, J. 2011. Eastern and Western Conservation Approaches reflected on Dunhuang Manuscripts. In: K. Bao (ed.), Wen Jin Xue Zhi. Beijing: National Library of China, 253-358.

Chang, J. & M. Schilling 2016. Reconstructing lacquer technology through Chinese classical texts Studies in Conservation, 61(3), 38-44.

Heginbotham, A., J. Chang, H. Khanjian & M. Schilling 2016. Some observations on the composition of Chinese lacquer Studies in Conservation, 61(3), 28-37.

Schilling, M., H. Khanjian, J. Chang, A. Heginbotham & N. Schellmann 2014. Chinese lacquer: Much more than Chinese lacquer Studies in Conservation, 59(S1), 131-3.

Webb, M., M. Schilling & J. Chang, 2014. The reproduction of samples of Chinese export lacquer for research., in An Unbroken History: Conserving East Asian Works of Art and Heritage. Hong Kong: IIC Congress.

Webb, M., M. Schilling & J. Chang 2016. The reproduction of realistic samples of Chinese export lacquer for research Studies in Conservation, 61(3), 55-165.

Conference papers

Chang, J. (2018, March) "Chinese Texts on the Fabrication of Jiā zhù (Dry Lacquer) Sculpture", Paper presented at the Sixth Forbes Conclusion, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, USA.

Chang, J. (2018, Jan.) "A Brief Introduction to the Recent Lacquer Researches in the West", Paper presented at the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan.

Chang, J. (2016, Feb.) "Technology of lacquer, scientific investigation and the implications for conservation" Paper presented at the Lacquer and Japanned Furniture Training Day, Powis Castle, National Trust, UK.

Webb, M., M. Schilling & J. Chang. (2014, Sep.) "The reproduction of samples of Chinese export lacquer for research" Paper presented at the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works 2014 Hong Kong Congress.

Chang, J. & M. Schilling (2014, July) "Reconstructing the missing linkages" Paper presented at the Recent Advances in Characterizing Asian Lacquer Workshop, C2RMF, Paris, France.

Chang, J. (2013, May) "Reconstructing the missing linkages: through Chinese classical texts and modern analytical techniques " Paper presented at the International Asian Lacquer Symposium, Buffalo State College, USA.