Julie Chang

A Cross-Disciplinary Approach to Chinese Lacquer Technology, through the investigation of Texts and Materials Evidence

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 succedanea, 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.


 Educational background

  • MSc in 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.
  • Webb, M., Schilling, M. and Chang, J. 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.
  • Schilling, M., Khanjian, H., Chang, J., Heginbotham., A. and Schellmann,. N. 2014. Chinese lacquer: Much more than Chinese lacquer. In: Studies in Conservation, Volume 59, Number S1, 131-S133
  • Presentation at the International Asian Lacquer Symposium, Buffalo State College, May 2013

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