Before heading north to Hanoi and the traditional craft villages of the north we stopped in to the lacquer ware workshop in Ho Chi Minh City. Here we were given the tour of the process board in action. I was very impressed. They are using the resin from what he called the lacquer tree which is a relative of the rubber tree. Watch the movie Indochine, you can see how this is harvested. They start with a hardwood base, rosewood. Seal it with the first coat of resin which turns black due to oxidation and then put on a layer of cloth which allows the design "to float" on surface when the wood contracts or expands. The design is then added using mother of pearl or duck egg shell followed by 17 layers of resin that are dried, sanded, and then the next applied. The process takes 3 to 4 weeks. The final polishing is done with ground up cocnut shell.
Their show room was wowsie...just sorry I could not bring more home. Will add photo later.