Chinkin - Ornamental Beauty Created by the Art of Carving

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What is Chinkin?


Just as ceramic-ware is called "China" in English, lacquerware is called "Japan." As the name suggests, Lacquerware is one of the traditional Japanese crafts most widely known throughout the world.

Lacquerware is produced in many places in Japan. Among these, Wajima-nuri, the lacquerware produced in Wajima is known for being "robust in body but refined in appearance." The robustness of Wajima-nuri is achieved by the base strengthening process known as Shitaji not found in other lacquerware production centers. The beauty of the lacquer-coated surface and the special ornamental design produce its refined appearance.

Representative techniques of ornamental lacquerware are Makie and Chinkin. Chinkin in particular has developed significantly in Wajima-nuri.
In Makie, designs are drawn on the lacquered surface with lacquer using a brush. Gold leaf, gold or silver powder or shell are sprinkled or stuck onto the design. Chinkin however, is the technique of decorating lacquerware by carving in which designs are carved into the lacquered surface using a very sharp chisel, then gold leaf or powder is inlayed into the carved design. Every motion of the carving requires careful concentration and there is no room for error. In contrast to ordinary drawing or painting, doing Chinkin on curved surfaces such as bowls or tea caddies requires very elaborate skills. The work of Chinkin displays the experience and mental discipline attained by the craftsman.

photo: As a result of its intricate production process, the smooth but robust final lacquered surface of Wajima-Nuri makes delicate carving possible. The thickly lacquered surface also prevents the wooden base from being exposed when it is deeply carved. This is one reason why Chinkin has developed more in Wajima than in other production centers.

Chinkin work from Wajima is still loved today as it has been by people over many generations.