A Feature on Ancient Chinese Furniture

Ancient Chinese furniture offers insights into Chinese culture as well as an array of craftsmanship styles. Prior to the fourteenth century, Chinese furniture had not attained the fine details we have come to associate with its construction. Such craftsmanship had not yet received recognition due to factional wars between the states. Unlike other Asian countries, furniture was very rare in China until the 12th century. Gradually, furniture construction increased and, with this, designs started became more and more refined, a trend that would continue over time. After the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Chinese furniture craftsmanship found its own identity. The furniture produced during this period was quite simple with little decoration and a few sparse lines. In those days, furniture was limited to armrests, low-level tables with minimalist and simplistic lines. After, the Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.), tables with higher seats came into existence in the houses of the richer families.

The joints were so accurately built that nails and glue were used only as accessories. Handles, lock plates, and hinges were attached in order to complement the lines of each piece. Pieces were built with precious woods like sandalwood, rose wood, and mahogany. Craftsmen tried to express their inner feelings in their products. Most furniture possessed a simple look with unique shape and durability. Sparse lines were drawn distinctly to differentiate the legs and resting bars of tables and chairs, and the back of an armchair. Craftsmen gave special attention to the natural beauty of texture, carvings. They added patterns via openwork carving or relief engraving. Ancient Chinese furniture had a lifecycle of several hundred years.

Later, during the period of Qing dynasty (1644-1911), special emphasis was laid on minute, ornamental details. Furniture during Qing dynasty was more improvised that of the Ming dynasty. Such patterns existed from Emperor Yonzheng to Emperor Jiaging. Due of their peaceful reign, they could indulge in more luxurious and decorative furnishings, sumptuousness, and ornate design. Some of the furniture was decorated with inlays of stone, metal, enamel, mother-of-pearl, and porcelain.

Ancient Chinese furniture from northern region tended to be big, heavy, and sheerly functional; whereas southern furniture was more elaborate and detailed.


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