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History of Chinese Furniture

The classical Chinese furniture has evolved at different times from a very sober style with some complexity, and adapt to changing cultural and economic.

    In antiquity, the Chinese usually sat on the floor on straw mats. The use of beds and couches spread after the Warring States Period (475-221 BC).. Under the Wei and Chin dynasties (220-420) dynasties and in North and South (420-589), the Western-style chairs, folding stools and other seats have gradually emerged in China.

    Since then, most Chinese do not sit on the floor with crossed legs but chairs, and mats are not used to cover beds and seats.

    From the end of the Qing Dynasty, Chinese began to adopt lifestyles based abroad, and classic furniture, previously ubiquitous, have gradually become collectibles.

    Chairs, tables, cabinets, libraries and screens have reached their zenith under the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing.

    The Ming furniture had simple lines and soft. The decoration is generally harmonious, elegant and discreet, and emphasizes the aesthetic qualities unique to square lines of this style.

    Under the Qing, due to the development of foreign trade and improvement of technical craft, the Chinese furniture has been enriched by ornamentation and carving.

    The quality of the furniture of Ming and Qing periods are still in the major sources of inspiration for artisans today.

    As in traditional architecture, the wood was in ancient China the base material, and permitted the vast forest wealth in China. The furniture is divided into two main categories: the lacquered furniture and hardwood furniture.

    The lacquered furniture were mostly in the palaces, temples and residences of the powerful. The techniques used in their manufacture were: t'i-hung, or carved lacquer; t'ien-ch'i in which lacquer is used to perform the etching, then polished miao-ch'i, lacquer or painted; and luo-tien, where the furniture is inlaid with mother of pearl. Sometimes, several techniques are used on the same cabinet.


    The hardwood furniture was common in the homes of wealthy families, and even the homes of nobles and officials. The woods used were red sandalwood, pear, rosewood, ebony, and nanmu. Among these different species, the red sandalwood is the most valuable and solid texture is dense, it is very hard and withstands the test of time.

    In addition, bamboo furniture rattan and also a long history. Bamboo is a typical product of Asia, and the industry is well developed in the tropical island of Taiwan. The simple and ingenious techniques are used to make furniture clever, whose parts can be disassembled, assembled or used separately. Bamboo can be combined with other materials such as wood, rattan, metal and ceramic tile, in endless variations.

    The Chinese are fond of pearl inlaid furniture or carved. Besides pearl and enamel, there are also inlaid with colorful jade, ivory, horn, agate, amber and various precious stones. Marble, for example, is often used, as well as ceramics. Another technique used long ago by Chinese carpenters marquetry. For sculpture, various methods are employed, including the modeling in relief, and relief carving. The reasons most commonly used are the flowers, dragons, phoenixes, the ch'i-lin (a mythological animal), and clouds and stylized leaves.

    The classical Chinese furniture is generally arranged in symmetrical sets. It adds decorative items to lighten the mood of the piece: paintings and calligraphy on the wall, pieces of porcelain, enamel and other precious ornaments placed in a glass, or compositions of flower or jade gems placed on a table. These items provide touches of color and elegance to furniture also quite heavy.

    With prosperity, people attach more importance to interior design and room layout and furniture they choose more carefully. The traditional Chinese style is particularly popular: antiques and old furniture is very popular, and take their place in modern interiors.

    Source: Taiwan Cultural Center in Paris
chinese furniture