The Early Modern World, C. 1300–1600

Art and Zen Buddhism

What was the Orchard Factory?

The Orchard Factory was a Chinese imperial palace workshop during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). The Orchard Factory primarily produced lacquered wood furniture and decorative objects of astonishing quality. Lacquer is a clear wood finish derived from tree sap that acts as a preserver. Lacquer can be colored with pigments. Multiple layers of lacquer can be carved, and it can also be inlaid with precious stones and metals. A fine example of the lacquer work likely produced by the Orchard Factory is a Ming-era folding chair dating from the mid-sixteenth century, now at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The folding chair, used by Chinese emperors while traveling, is ornately decorated with stylized dragon and lotus flower motifs.

Blue-and-white painted porcelain from the Ming period is among the most expensive and most highly sought after ceramics in the world. (Art courtesy The Art Archive / Musée Guimet Paris / Gianni Dagli Orti)


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