photo <i>Chinkin</i>


For chinkin (“sunken gold”), a chisel or knife is used to incise lines and dots into a lacquered surface. Gold leaf or fine gold powder is then inlaid into the grooves, creating a fine and delicate design.
The technique came to Japan from China approximately 600 years ago. Inlaying gold leaf or gold dust into recesses cut into the lacquered surface produces vivid gold designs. When silver is used in place of gold, the technique is known as chingin (“sunken silver”), and when red lacquer is used the technique is called chinshu (“sunken cinnabar”).
In the piece shown here, the soft-looking fur of the cat and the delicate lace design were created by incising lines and dots. An incision cannot be corrected once it is made, so there is no room for error.


  • 1.The design is cut into the surface of the piece.
  • 2.Lacquer is rubbed into the incisions.
  • 3.Cotton is used to apply gold powder.
  • 4.The excess gold powder is wiped away and the piece is complete.
  • Reference: Nihon Kōgeikai Higashi Nihon Shibu (Japan Kōgei Association Eastern Branch), ed., Dentō kōgei-tte nani? – miru, shiru, tanoshimu gaido bukku (What Are Traditional Crafts? –A Guidebook to Seeing, Learning, and Enjoying). Unsodo, 2013.