Traditional Culture of Japan - Portal site of traditional crafts and culture

Lacquerware decorations with the chinkin technique


“Makie”, which uses powdered gold or silver, as well as “raden”, which uses rainbow-colored shells, have beautiful appearances and attract many people. But, there are many other decorative techniques in lacquerware.


Contrary to makie, which draws a picture by using powdered gold, the technique to engrave the surface of lacquerware and then rub gold into the groove is called “chinkin”. Gold is highlighted in the engraved design carved with a carving knife, so this technique can give a gorgeous impression in the same way as makie.


*Lacquerware created with the chinkin technique


The chinkin technique
Chinkin was developed in Asia in such countries as China and Thailand. But, this is a technique that has been greatly improved in Japan today.


With the chinkin technique, first lacquerware is engraved by using a tool called “chinkin-tō”. A picture is drawn on the lacquerware with this tool.


After the design is completed, lacquer is applied only to the groove. When the surface is wiped after powdered gold or gold leaf is adhered, the gold remains along the engraved design. So, the lacquer is used as an adhesive agent. Because the lacquer and gold are strongly adhered to each other, the gold will be buried into the engraved sections only.


With chinkin, a design is drawn by a dot or line. Even though gold is used in both techniques, “makie”, which highlights the design by scattering powdered gold, and “chinkin”, which highlights the picture with the engraved grooves, each can give different impressions.


The intricacy of chinkin is its distinctive expression with simple techniques of “dot” and “line” while the piece is a work of luxury.


Current chinkin
Chinkin originates from a technique called “sōkin”, which was developed in China. It seemed that the technique was transferred to Japan in the Nanbokuchō Period (From 1336 to 1392). The lacquerware from this period has been passed to present day.


Chinkin is actively performed in Wajima City, Ishikawa Prefecture. The most famous lacquerware in Japan is the “Wajima-nuri” style, and chinkin is performed in this city of Wajima.


Chinkin does not necessarily use gold. Sometimes silver or platinum is used, and other times pigments of red or green are used. Either way, chinkin is the technique to apply lacquer to the engraved design and then a color is rubbed into the grooves.

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