Any of a variety of decorative objects or surfaces, usually of wood, to which a coloured, highly polished, and opaque type of varnish called lacquer has been applied. True lacquerwork is Chinese or Japanese in origin. The technique was copied in Europe, where it was known as japanning, but European lacquerwork lacks the hardness and brilliance of Asian lacquer. True lacquer is the purified and dehydrated sap of the Rhus vernicifera tree, native to China and cultivated in Japan. Lacquer becomes extremely hard but not brittle on exposure to air and takes a high polish. Many thin layers are applied, allowed to dry, and smoothed before the surface is ready for decoration by carving, engraving, or inlay.
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