Cloud Carving Lacquer: Yundiao

undiao literally means Cloud-carving. It refers to a technique where an item is painted with colors in layers, and then a pattern is cut into it with a V-shaped blade, so the colors of the different layers are exposed, like looking at the walls of the Grand Canyon. In China it is also sometimes referred as tixi, and in Japan, where they learned the technique from China, it is called guri. (if you are looking for more examples on the web the most common search term is guri)

Though looking at a yundiao you can count 7 or 8 layers, there are actually many more than that. Because of the thinness with which lacquer must be applied, there are usually several dozen, from 60 to 100, layers of lacquer required to get the necessary thickness for the carving to be done. Each layer of red or black that you see consists of 8 or 10 actual layers of lacquer, each of which must be applied, fully dried, and sanded before the next one can be done. This requires months of preparation before the actual carving can be begun.

Lacquer carving is difficult to do well because the medium is so hard and unforgiving. The same quality which gives lacquer its usefulness, its hardness, makes it very difficult to carve. And mistakes made in carving cannot simply be erased and retried as if it were clay. Good yundiao can be recognized by the evenness of its layers, the consistant depth and shape of the V-shaped cut, and the graceful look of the pattern.

Click on the photos and adjust the magnification to get an idea of what good yundiao should look like. Or click here to see our yundiao items currently in stock.