Chiljang (applying lacquer) - National Intangible Cultural Property No. 113


Everlasting Legacies of Korea

Chiljang (applying lacquer) - National Intangible Cultural Property No. 113 +

Classification Intangible Cultural Property / Traditional Technology / Craft
Designated date 2001.3.12
location Seoul
The term chiljang refers to the craftsman who creates lacquerware by applying lacquer -- or the refined sap of lacquer trees (Rhus verniciflua) -- to various objects. The first trace of lacquer use dates back to the third century BCE, but the earliest relics of lacquerware date back to the first century BCE.

Lacquerware began to develop into an art form during the Nangnang (Lelang) Period and progressed further in the Silla Kingdom. In the Goryeo Dynasty, lacquered works were decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay, creating a new art form called najeon chilgi. In the Joseon Dynasty, lacquerware became more common, and many works were produced. The state compiled data on the distribution of lacquer trees nationwide and collected the sap from these trees. Lacquer craftsmen working in the capital and in the provinces were affiliated with their local government offices.

The raw lacquer from the trees had to be refined before it could be used, and lacquer craftsmen would do the refining themselves. The refining process removes impurities and creates a fine particle liquid. Creating lacquer works is a long, laborious process. The item to be lacquered, called soji, had to be made of materials that are easy to work with and to paint, including wood, bamboo, cloth, paper, clay, and metal.

First the object is smoothed down, and then the lacquer is built up in many coats, requiring lacquering, smoothing, and drying over and over again. Basically, the process is divided into three steps: chochil (first lacquering), jungchil (middle lacquering), and sangchil (final lacquering). After the final coat, the object is vigorously polished.☆


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