Both archaeologists and ordinary people were disappointed to learn that a 2,000-year-old tomb excavated in western Beijing was found with an empty coffin due to unknown tomb robberies.
But not all were disappointed. Bai Deyuan, head of a Beijing-based factory that produces lacquerware, was immersed in thousands of orders from across the country and overseas.
The live telecast of the tomb excavation on August 20 has caused a lot of people to become interested in lacquerware unearthed from the tomb.
Lacquerware is rarely seen in tombs of Han dynasties (BC 206 to 220 AD) in north China. The pieces discovered in the western Beijing tomb were precious because they are inlaid with gold plates with different designs, including clouds and flying tigers.
"Our lacquerware sold like hotcakes from September," said Bai. "People came to learn the unique characteristics and real value of the Chinese lacquerware because of the telecast."
Bai's clerks received orders from customers ranging from several hundred yuan to over 10,000 yuan. Many of the buyers are foreigners.
Lacquerware is a metal or wooden object covered with transparent or opaque lacquer. It could be polished to have the same luster as porcelain.
The history of lacquerware in China can be dated back to over 7,000 years ago during the Neolithic Age, much earlier than the use of porcelain which started in the late 3rd century.
During the Spring and Autumn Period (770- 476 B.C.) and the Warring States Period (475- 221 B.C.), lacquerware was quite popular among the aristocracy. The patterns of the lacquerware depicted animal images and various aspects of human life.
Large amounts of Chinese lacquerware went to Japan in the 6th century with the spread of Buddhism and to Europe during the Emperor Kangxi's reign (1654---1722).
China used to have six plants making inlaid lacquerware in Beijing, Shanghai, north China's Shanxi Province, east China's Jiangsu Province, and northwest China's Gansu Province. Bai's plant is now the only one which can produce inlaid lacquerware.
(People’s Daily 10/18/2000)