Art of Ancient Chinese Ming and Qing Furniture

The Ming-dynasty furniture looks elegant, plain and ingenious and was commended as brilliant representative of Chinese classic furniture, known as Ming-type furniture. The rise of Ming furniture was closely associated with the social environment of the times, as the booming of cities and towns, the growth of commodity economy and the emergence of architecture in large numbers, made the demand for furniture continuously on the increase. Moreover, in the Ming Dynasty, Zheng He the great navigator made seven trips to the West and the ban on maritime trade and relations with foreign countries was once lifted, resulting in large quatity of timber brought to China from Southeastern Asia. Besides, woodworking implements had been improved to an extent as never before.

Ming Furniture
 Chinese home decor
Ming Furniture
 Chinese home decor

In Ming-style furniture making, materials were most particular about. Usually hard wood such as red sandalwood, huang-hua-li-mu (a species of rosewood) and the like, was chosen, which when polished with wax, reveals their natural grain and freshening luster, fully in accord with the taste of the men of letters in the Ming Dynasty who are always after primitive simplicity and elegance. As they advocated nature, they preferred yellow color to dark color, and huang-hua-li-mu which is fine in grain, having the color of amber and the touch of jade, became the first to be chosen in the late Ming Dynasty down to the early Qing Dynasty.

Ming Furniture
 Chinese home decor

Furniture making procedures include: to cut open wood, to saw timber, to plane, chisel, drill, carve, polish, lacquer and wax. The precise and ingenious process of fitting a tenon into a mortise to make a joint is a unique feature of Ming-style furniture making in which all joints are formed with tenon and mortise without using nail or glue.

Qing Furniture
 Chinese home decor

The Qing Dynasty people valued dark color instead of yellow. They were partial to luxury and majesty. As the Qing royal family favored red sandalwood in particular, it became the first choice for the material used in making furniture. The existing articles are mostly from the court, all carved meticulously. In the middle of Qing Dynasty, huanghuali, red sandalwood, etc., became extremely in short supply. Then red wood started to be imported and used extensively. Red wood is similar in quality to red sandalwood. It is of hard texture, and appears grand and majestic. Its main disadvantages are such as not tenacious enough to be easily carved and it is susceptible to changing shape when affected with damp, dryness cold, or heat and is therefore unfit for meticulous carving.

The Ming-style furniture excels in plain shape while the Qing-style one is good at multifarious and elaborate decoration. The crafts in making furniture in the Qing Dynasty were so consummate that they had reached the apex of traditional furniture crafts. Not only had they inherited the traditional methods, but also absorbed exotic culture to form distinctive style of the times.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

We co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

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Traditional Chinese Ming Furniture

Ming Furniture

Representing the zenith of Chinese furniture, Ming furniture is treasured for its precious wood, comfortable design, simple decoration and superb craftsmanship.

Bookshelf of the Ming Dynasty
 Chinese home decor

Background

Ming furniture dates from the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644AD), a transitional time in Chinese history. During the beginning and the middle of the Ming Dynasty, austerity was a government edict. Later, though the economy gained substantial growth, people had to remain low-keyed about their wealth to avoid high taxes. With the issuance of a policy to lower taxes, people finally found a solution to vent their natural inclinations. The vogue went beyond a rich and decent life; luxury and novelty became the fashion. Under such a social background, people, rich or poor, were free to wear bright and magnificent clothes and to build large houses; consequently, luxurious furniture was needed.

Cultural Features

Scholars’ participation substantially influenced the development of furniture. The ancient hierarchical tradition required scholars to pursue spiritual goals and to not get involved in craftsmanship. However, Ming Dynasty scholars differentiated from their counterparts in previous dynasties not by bizarre dress, but by their novel interest in furniture design, which helped it throw off rigidity and develop cultural meaning. In addition, references to furniture by scholars leave us valuable information.

 
 Chinese home decor

The scholars’ aesthetics helped Ming furniture follow an elegant and natural taste. The scholars grasped the essence of “less is more.” Decoration for decoration’s sake was a lowbrow skill. In quality furniture, the texture of wood was fully used to reveal natural beauty. Simple design had nothing to do with cheapness; red sandalwood and scented rosewood represented essential value. Scholars had their special interests and preferences. Small tables, vases, bibelots and incense burners created an elegant atmosphere.

 
 Chinese home decor

Handwritings and paintings by well-known calligraphers and painters were engraved in desks and chairs, increasing the artistic and aesthetic value of the furniture.

 
 Chinese home decor

Ming furniture features durable and precious woods such as red sandalwood and scented rose wood, which emit pleasant aromas, naturally adding a touch of taste and grace. Simple structure and minimal decoration set off the natural beauty of the wood. This meaningful simplicity was achieved without sacrificing comfort. Scientific protection for bodily form was reflected in details such as curves, lines, height, and size.

Chinese traditional culture emphasizes the positive interplay between nature and human beings. Applying ideas from Zen and Tao, scholars and craftsmen devoted their wisdom and passion to reflecting this golden rule in furniture, creating the Golden Time of classical furniture.

Qing Furniture

 
 Chinese home decor

At the beginning of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), furniture followed Ming patterns and styles. During the reign of Emperors Kangxi, Yong Zheng, and Qian Long, Qing Furniture showed its own uniqueness with the absorption of western art. It was larger in size with grandeur and pageantry.

Engraving was a popular and important means of furniture decoration. The subjects range from auspicious character patterns, to geometric patterns and scenes in nature with animals, mountains and waters, flowers and grass. Color painting, especially gold painting, was widely used.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

We co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Luxuriant rosewood evokes imperial style

A legacy of old-time royal luxury, rosewood furniture is a living fossil of a privileged lifestyle.

 
 Chinese furniture

Rosewood carving, which turns fine material into exquisite artworks, is among the best gifts history has left China’s capital.

Most sandalwood is produced in tropical areas – little is grown in China. But the nation became the biggest repository of rosewood timber during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Zheng He’s historical expeditions in the early 15th century to Southeast and South Asia brought back large amount of the luxuriant wood to make furniture cherished by the emperors and nobles.

Rosewood was continuously shipped to China during that dynasty. Since a rosewood tree grows very slowly, only 15 percent of the timber is suitable for carving. The world’s sandalwood reserve was almost used up in the subsequent Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), ending a flourishing era of the art.

 
 Chinese furniture

Nevertheless, no matter how rare the material is, the craftsmanship is even more precious. Only the best artisans have been allowed to touch the fine timber because rosewood carving requires the most complicated technique among all woods and needs an extraordinary scrutiny of details, experts say.

People can still feel the classical flavor through these splendid pieces and enjoy this look at the past.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

We co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Centuries-old furniture withstands the test of time

Furniture made during China’s Ming dynasty from the 14th to 17th centuries achieved a pinnacle in the art of furniture making. It is also a favorite among antique collectors. Now, an exhibition at 798 Art Zone in Beijing is displaying some rare pieces of Ming dynasty furniture. The exhibition will run through October 7.

An exhibition at 798 art zone in Beijing is displaying some rare pieces of Ming dynasty furniture.
 Ming furniture

The exhibition is held by Jia Mu Tang, literally meaning “house of fine wood”, a company specializing in collecting Chinese antiques. Twenty eight geniune Ming dynasty furniture pieces collected by the company are on display, along with playthings owned by the late well-known antique collector Wang Shixiang. The furniture includes chairs, benches, tables, beds and wardrobes.

Wang Shixiang (1914-2009), hailed as the “father of classical Chinese furniture”, defined Ming furniture as pieces fashioned from valuable hardwood during the late Ming (1368-1644) and early Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

The exhibition places the furniture in seven modern rooms, including a sitting room, dining room and the memorial room of Wang Shixiang. Although created hundreds of years ago, these pieces provide a modern feel. And in the room dedicated to Wang Shixiang’s collections and essays, visitors can feel the profound knowledge of the late collector. Seven bronze furnaces manifest the epitome of his hobby.

Pieces of Ming furniture are exhibited at a space decorated as a sitting room.
 Ming furniture

“The antique and the modern complement each other,” says Qiao Hao, a Ming furniture expert and head of Guardian’s furniture and artwork department. “Every furnace has its own style, and can be called one of a kind in terms of collecting.”

“The study of Ming furniture is relatively new. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Wang published China’s first book on it.” Qiao said.

Wang’s books include Ming Dynasty Furniture Appreciation and Classic Chinese Furniture: Ming and Early Qing Dynasties. They’re recognized as rediscoveries of antique furniture in China.

In modern times, Westerners began collecting and researching Ming furniture before the Chinese.

Foreign scholars and diplomats began collecting them in the 1930s. In 1944, German scholar Gustav Ecke published Chinese Domestic Furniture, the first book in any language on Ming furniture.

Although created hundreds of years ago, these pieces deliver a modern feel.
 Ming furniture

“It’s miraculous that artisans centuries ago could produce furniture that fits modern life,” Qiao says.

The furniture includes chairs, benches, tables, beds and wardrobes.
 Ming furniture

“It proves Ming furniture can withstand the test of time and transcend distinctions between Eastern and Western aesthetics.”

28 real Ming dynasty furniture pieces collected by the company are on display here.
 Ming furniture

Qiao explains the show aims to preserve and disseminate the furniture’s cultural components while honoring Wang’s efforts to do so.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

We co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!