The chemistry of East Asian lacquer: A review of the scientific literature

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


McSharry, Carolyn; Faulkner, Rupert; Welton, Tom; Rivers, Shayne; Shaffer, Milo S. P.;


Reviews in Conservation, Volume 8, p.29-40 (2007)


This paper reviews the scientific literature concerning urushi lacquers. Urushi has been used by skilled lacquer artists for thousands of years, predominantly in the East Asian countries of Japan, Korea and China, where there is an abundance of urushi-producing trees. Spectacular lacquered artefacts still exist due to the stability of the material, and numerous conservation efforts endeavour to preserve these pieces. This review discusses the chemical properties of this complex material, with particular reference to its stability and durability, and the conditions that contribute to its deterioration. The importance of understanding these properties is discussed with regard to the conservation of urushi-based objects.