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Lacquerware was originally a “rare” item for collection, belonging to the “miscellaneous” category of auction, which is difficult to compare with “major” items such as Ming and Qing porcelain. However, in the past decade, lacquerware has gradually become a “hot” item for collection, and various high-quality Ming and Qing lacquerware products have become popular in auction houses, with auction prices rising all the way. Like artifacts sold for tens of thousands of yuan ten years ago, nowadays they are often sold for hundreds of thousands or even millions of yuan.
China is the earliest country in the world to use paint. The vermilion painted wooden bowl unearthed at the Hemudu site in Yuyao, Zhejiang 7000 years ago is the earliest lacquer ware discovered in China to date. The Warring States period to the Western Han Dynasty was the heyday of lacquerware development. The production of lacquer ware during the Warring States period experienced a stage of development from elementary to advanced. As a dietary utensil, lacquer ware was extremely popular at that time, to some extent replacing containers such as gold, jade, and copper. The Ming and Qing dynasties were another peak period of lacquer art. During the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty, the Imperial Household Supervisor established the Imperial Household Lacquerware Workshop and Orchard Factory in the imperial city, expanding the production of carved and filled lacquerware. The Qing Dynasty also attached great importance to lacquerware art, and lacquer carving techniques began to be applied to large pieces of furniture, characterized by bright and festive colors and exquisite and magnificent patterns. It was not until the downfall of the Qing Dynasty that lacquerware, as a court art, began to spread among the people. Due to the loss of most of the Tang, Song, and Yuan lacquerware before the Ming Dynasty to overseas markets, most of the commonly seen lacquerware on the market is from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Based on the auction transactions of lacquerware over the years, the Ming and Qing Dynasty red lacquerware has the highest auction price and is also the most popular in the market.
Although the price of lacquerware has reached new highs in the auction market in recent years, according to industry analysts, compared to various other artworks, the current price of lacquerware is still not too high. The reason for this is not only that collectors have insufficient understanding of the value of lacquerware, but also that there are too few high-quality products. With the continuous improvement of people’s understanding, there have been collectors in China who purchase traditional lacquerware exclusively from overseas. The high-quality products are expected to return in large quantities in recent years, which will drive the overall increase of the market value of lacquerware.