Antique Chinese Furniture
Like most civilizations of the world, China also has certain art forms that are local to it and have spread from within to the rest of the world. Ancient and modern Chinese furniture is an example of such art form. Indeed, it is an art form, because of the fluid elegant lines flowing all over the aesthetically and practically designed subtle, but peculiar furniture elements. During the ancient Chinese days, people used to sit or squat on the floor to take their meals; this was primarily because of their faith in god and considering themselves to be creatures of a ‘lower’ order. It marked a kind of respect they had towards god and other human beings. Consequently, their furniture was usually low ended was the ground clearance was low.
As time progressed and the rise of Chinese anarchism and high headed ness came to fore front, the elite class of the Chinese society started to get the furniture raised and, as we see it today in most of Chinese furniture, the furniture that is commonly used in Chinese households, restaurants, pubs, offices and hotels is contemporary, but raised, like you would find in any other part of the world. Ming dynasty, considered to be the golden period of China, like the Maurya and Gupta dynasties of India, gave headway to trade and hence, there was an uprising of the trade hubs of China, specially the cities falling on the ‘silk route’ and the coastal cities, modern Hong Kong and Shanghai as we know it today. Due to this influx of wealth and power, the demand for luxury items, especially furniture grew. At that time, the best luxury goods were goods of art, furniture and fine arts, and hence, the rich and the prosperous were making social statements by buying and ordering furniture that was simple yet elegant, displaying curvaceous contours and yet, was a fine paradigm of rich Chinese craftsmanship of that era.
As time passed, the main frames of generic furniture items like cabinets, wardrobes, trunks, chest, tables, chairs and other items remained almost the same. But since metamorphosis is the call of the hour, and was indeed prevalent back then, the simple and elegant looks gave way to highly decorated and ornate designs, curvaceous contours transformed into angular edges. The Chinese furniture as we see today is a hybrid of the Ming (simple, elegant and curvaceous) paradigm and the quing paradigm (all glitter with angular edges). Right from the dynastic ages, Chinese furniture has been carved out of local wood, especially from pine, elm and Zelkova trees, giving it an air of supremacy and belonging to the rich Chinese heritage.
In recent years, wood from nearby tropical countries and islands of India, Malaysia, Philippines, Bhutan, Myanmar and other south east Asian nation has gained popularity, mainly because of the availability factor and because tropical woods are naturally immune to most pathogens that cause furniture degradation, hence your furniture is safe from decay for years.
Over the years, the art of furniture making in china, like most other forms (e.g. Martial arts, writing and singing) , has not been documented, rather it has been passed on from generation to generation. Movement of the knowledge in this form gives substance to the underlying Chinese ideology of communalism by making only a particular group or sect to excel in a particular art.
Over all Chinese handicrafts and furniture items are usually simple in design, with red or black backdrops and having landscape scenes and certain religious or social symbols in the deep back ground. The design is usually carved and at times it is painted. The main gist of Chinese furniture designing lies in the fact that the underlying beauty and natural finish of the wood is showcased by surfacing it to the forefront, rather than depending heavily on the design element.
Luxury, status and utility were not all that were and infact, are associated with furniture in China. Another important aspect related to furniture in China is “Feng-Shui”. Feng shui is an ancient Chinese art of synchronizing elements from heaven and earth to create a synergy. In other words, it involves placing certain house hold items in particular directions, at particular angles and with particular effects. This, according to ancient Chinese scholars, helps in bringing prosperity and well being to the family. Feng-shui heavily implies to furniture and its placements also, although furniture is NOT the only thing associated with Feng Shui as such. Special furniture items like portraits of the laughing Buddha, or animals of religious symbolism in China or other items like coins, flowers and wind chimes are carved out of wood and placed at certain locations of the house according to the rules of Feng Shui in order to bring the synergy effect.
Overall, as mystic it is, Chinese furniture is comfortable, elegant, and unique and has an air of freshness in it. It is designed to pump up your spirits and make your home look beautiful.