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HUANG Yichen

Fudan University (Shanghai)
Department of Cultural Heritage and Museology

Thesis Topic

Research on the Production and Circulation of Lacquerwares during the Warring States Period to the Han Dynasty

As a quintessential luxury of the Warring States, Qin and Han dynasties, lacquerware was deeply ingrained in the rituals and daily life of the people during the period. In the course of time, the popularization of lacquerwares was achieved in two ways: on one side, the use of lacquerwares gradually spread from the nobility to the commoners who could afford it; on the other side, the influence of lacquerware-related rituals and customs slowly spread from the Chinese hinterland to the borders and neighbouring territories. This led to a diversification of lacquerware production and consumption habits across the region. Previous studies mostly adopted an object-centred paradigm to explore the periodization, craftsmanship and function of lacquerware, but little attention has been paid to the economic foundation and social agency of its popularization during the period. In other words, what mechanisms of supply and distribution drove the popularization of lacquerware as a luxury item? How did various regions respond to the penetration of lacquerware and its associated ritual practices in the process of popularization? This dissertation addresses these two questions by using lacquerwares as an integrated part of social-economic materials. Through reconstructing their production, management, distribution and consumption, the dissertation aimed to examine the extent to which lacquerwares were accepted by different natives during the Warring States Period to the Han dynasties, thus revealing the vivid picture of the production and distribution of lacquerwares from both economic and social perspectives. To achieve the objectives, the dissertation focuses on lacquer vessels with decorations or inscriptions. It first devises a scheme to locate the provenance of lacquer vessels based on style and distribution, and then discusses the state control mechanisms over lacquer resources and the production and marketing methods taken by lacquerware workshops at different levels. Finally, it delves into the distribution and consumption of lacquer vessels, reconstructs the distribution routes and consumption networks of lacquer vessels during the period, and reveals the political, diplomatic and social relations reflected in the inter-regional movement of lacquer vessels.

Title: Scythian Style Bowl-shaped Vessel
Tomb: Beitoushan No.1 Han Tomb in Chaohu, Anhui Province
Artefact number: BM1:29