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Characteristics of the “lacquer tree” grown in the Eastern world


The craft art that uses lacquer is a part of traditional Japanese culture. Lacquerware is made by coating lacquer onto an object. The sap, the origin of lacquer, is obtained from the “lacquer tree”.


So, what kinds of characteristics does the lacquer tree have? We need to begin learning about the lacquer tree in order to know more about lacquer. In the same way that lacquer has special characteristics, the lacquer tree also has unique features.


Cultivation of the lacquer tree
The lacquer tree is a deciduous tree in the sumac family. Because it is a deciduous tree, it sheds its leaves in winter and comes into bud in spring. You can find the lacquer tree in the Eastern world.


There are many similar kinds of trees as the lacquer tree in Japan. These trees turn color in the autumn, so many people go out to the mountains to see those beautiful autumn leaves.


The lacquer tree is wild, but as people start using lacquer for lacquerware, the demand increases. Because of this, lacquer will run out only from wild lacquer trees.


Therefore, the artificial cultivation of the lacquer tree has begun. In Japan, lacquer has been used for thousands of years, thus most of the lacquer obtained in Japan comes from cultivated trees.


In fact, lacquer used to be taxed in Japan. In order to obtain as much lacquer as possible, cultivation methods of the lacquer tree were researched through powerful lords. Cultivating lacquer trees was that important in Japan.


Characteristics of the lacquer tree varies according to the country
Characteristics of the lacquer tree varies according to the country. For instance, even in East Asia, a lacquer tree in Thailand is very different from one in Japan.


The lacquer tree grown in Thailand is large and the lacquer obtained from the sap of these trees is a black rubber-like substance. On the other hand, the lacquer obtained from a tree in Japan is gray-brown in color. The lacquer of Japanese origin is produced by adding iron to the sap to create the black color. Not only the sap, but the shape of the flower is also different between the trees in these two countries.


This is because the climate is different. So, even if you planted a Japanese lacquer tree in Thailand, it will not grow properly. It will gradually grow poorly and perishes.


There are dozens of plants that belong to the sumac family. This helps us to believe that the lacquer tree grown in Japan is different from the ones grown in other countries.


The coasts of the Yellow River and the Yangtze River in China are known as places that have a similar climate as in Japan. The lacquer gathered in these regions has almost the same characteristics as from the lacquer trees grown in Japan. Today, most of the lacquer used in Japan depends on imports from foreign countries such as China.


How to establish more lacquer trees
The root of the lacquer tree does not grow vertically downwards. It grows to the sides on the shallow part of the ground. Because of this, you can find the root if you dig a little where the lacquer tree grows. Cut this root into an appropriate size and bury it in the ground. Then, a fresh sprout will appear from that root. This method of creating more lacquer trees is called the “transplanting root method”.


When the lacquer tree is cut down from the root, new sprouts will appear from the root the next spring. Similarly, you can divide the roots into several pieces for transplantation in order to increase the number of lacquer trees.


There is also a cultivation method from the seed. The lacquer tree has male and female trees. Female trees have a smoother surface, which is better for collecting the sap.


But, planting female trees alone will not produce lacquer seedlings. A lacquer tree will only grow from seed by planting an adequate number of male trees as well. Compared to the transplanting root method, this seed method takes longer to cultivate the lacquer trees, but it is said that the duration of a tree becomes longer by using this method.

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