Red-Lacquered Gold-Drilled Lotus-Shaped Dressing Case with Patterns of Lady and Flower


In 1976, more than ten pieces of precious lacquerware were unearthed in a Southern Song Dynasty tomb in Jiangtang Village, Cunqian Township, Wujin District, Changzhou City, Jiangsu Province, of which the most amazing one was the Red-Lacquered Gold-Drilled Lotus-Shaped Dressing Case with Patterns of Lady and Flower. This lacquered dressing case is now kept in Changzhou Museum as the national-level cultural relic, which by now is one of the earliest, best-preserved gold-drilled lacquerwares with inscription in China. It has become an important artifact for the study of Song Dynasty lacquerwares both at home and abroad with its elegant lotus shape, exquisite gold-drilled patterns and superb craftsmanship, which has filled in the historical blank in the lacquer painting process.


The lacquered dressing case is 21.3 centimeters high, 19.2 centimeters in diameter, with barrel-like twelve-petal lotus shape. From top to bottom it is divided into four tiers of cover, tray, middle tier and bottom tier, and the edges of the tiers are inlaid with silver. When it was unearthed, the top tier held a diamond-shaped bronze mirror, the middle tier held a wooden comb, bamboo comb, bamboo picks, lacquered powder box, and the bottom tier held a small tin can and a small porcelain box. The dressing case is an ancient utensil for women to keep toiletry, it had been widely used in the Warring States Period, until the Ming and Qing dynasties. In the Song Dynasty, the dressing case was a necessary item in the bride price and dowry, which had an important place in the life of people in the Song Dynasty; and at that time, people called the dowry "trousseau". Among the upper-class women, the trousseau was very high-end and exquisite, and this lacquered trousseau is a perfect representative.


This lacquered trousseau is made of wood, with black lacquer inside and red lacquer outside, and the cover and body are carved with flower patterns. On the cover is a picture of beautiful ladies enjoying summer. Two masters and one servant are standing in a garden with strange rockery and swinging willow. The two ladies wear the straight-necked cardigan popular the Song Dynasty and stand hand in hand, with one holding a folding fan, the other holding a circular fan in her arm, and a maid standing deferentially nearby. The trousseau’s petals are carved with six groups of lotus, peony, plum blossom, camellia, lotus and other flowers. Inside the cover, the inscription in red reads "High-end Product from Jinnian Wulang in Xinhe, Wenzhou".

The Song Dynasty is the golden period in the history of Chinese lacquerware. Lacquerwares unearthed during the early Song Dynasty are mostly glossy without pattern. This gold-drilled lacquerware reflects the lacquerwares’ change to the resplendent style in the late Song Dynasty. The gold-drilled technique used on the vessel is briefly recorded in the Ming Dynasty’s "Lacquerwork Book", and this excavated lacquerware is the first of this kind in the Song Dynasty and fills in the gap in the history of lacquering technique. In addition, the red inscriptions and the decorations on the cover are all of important research value, providing valuable real-life material for understanding and studying the distribution of lacquerware industry, production and the material and cultural life of people in the Song Dynasty.