Polished lacquerware is a highly developed handicraft known for the luster of its polished finish. Pingyao lacquerware is a famous Shanxi art form that is elegant and shiny in its primitive simplicity. It has fine resplendent patterns that are smooth to the touch and are heat resistant and moisture-proof, durable, and reputed for their quality.
Historical records show Pingyao having a long history of polished lacquerware, dating back to the Kaiyuan period of the Tang Dynasty (713-741). The lacquer was mostly used for folding screens, hanging screens, small tables, wardrobes, corner cupboards, wine cabinets, and jewelry caskets. The base is mainly inky, rosy red, apricot yellow, or green-purple and the designs feature national characteristics, such as figures from classical stories, dramas, ancient myths, and legends. They are often decorated with gold paint and carved or inlaid patterns, with smooth lines, harmonious hues, and vibrant colors.
Pingyao polished lacquerware involves five procedures: a wooden prototype, a grey prototype, lacquering, painting, and inlaying. In the first stage, craftsmen make a prototype out of pine, then cover it with hemp, and spread a layer of plaster mixed with pork blood in a fairly delicate, complicated process.
In recent years, Shanxi has improved its production and technology of lacquerware considerable. In 1977, the Pingyao polished lacquerware was listed as a government examination-exempt product. In 1978, the provincial government designated it a high-credibility product and, in 1978, it was designated a provincial-quality product. These days, Pingyao polished lacquerware is sold in 28 countries and regions, and does well on the international market.