|About Chinese Furniture||About Korean Furniture||About Tibetan Furniture|
About Chinese Furniture
Determining how much restoration should be done creates a dilemma or even controversy amongst Chinese antique furniture collectors. As with any antique furniture, the most valuable pieces are those in un-restored condition with the fewest blemishes. These pieces are available but hard to find and, as expected, expensive.
Most Chinese antique furniture has gone through a rough time, first due to the Cultural Revolution when much of the furniture were carted off to giant warehouses owned by the government, where they sat for the better part of a decade. After the Revolution, many pieces were redistributed to new owners who might not have any idea of their antique value and carelessly used them in their daily life, leaving them with gouges, cracks, breaks and worn coloring. Such “provenance” describes the fate of a significant portion of Chinese furniture that finds its way to Western shores.
Chinese Domestic Furniture As Art
Chinese furniture is unique in the furniture tradition of the world. When created by highly skilled craftsmen, Chinese furniture can be viewed as a fine art, functional sculpture in wood that transcends time and place, and be at home in a contemporary American house as they were in Chinese houses for which they were created. Reproductions in no way match the artistry and beauty of the original pieces. We have a huge collection of Chinese classical and vernacular furniture we acquired when China opened to the outside world in the 1990s. It dates from Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), to early 20th century. Chinese classical furniture has been seen as a significant part of the furniture tradition. We think there is much to be explored concerning Chinese domestic furniture as they truly reveal the richness and complexity of the life of most of the Chinese people. We welcome connoisseurs and collectors to come to our gallery to study some of these pieces. Our collection was acquired with aid from Chinese antique experts in the 1990s, when China just opened to the West.
Of special mention is a Chinese wood indigenous to northern China. Furniture made of this wood, the Sophora or “Huai” as the Chinese calls it, is rare because the wood became extinct by the end of the Ming Dynasty. This tree grew only about an inch a year so it is very dense and strong; since it is also naturally resistant to moisture and insect damage, and does not warp, it was the wood of choice as building material during the Yuan and Ming dynasties. Due to its over-use, it became extinct by the end of the Ming period; thus any furniture made of this wood is commonly dated to that early age. It has an historical reference in a chronical, “Imperial Peking: Seven Centuries of China” by Lin Yutang: In 1643, the last Ming Emperor,Tsungcheng, hanged himself on a Sophora tree on palace ground when he realized he was about to lose his kingdom. This extinct wood is not well-known among Western antique dealers and wood-craftsmen because not many furniture from that early era survived to come out of China. We not only have many pieces made of this rare wood, they are in excellent condition.
About Korean Furniture
Authentic traditional antique Korean furniture is rare, even in Korea. This is partially because of the drain of traditional objects from Korea into Japan and the West, and also because after the many wars Korea fought with its neighbors, many furniture were burned as firewood so the people could survive the bitter cold winters, with wind blowing in from Mongolia and Siberia. Not many old pieces were left after the war. With the dearth of original pieces, reproductions have become popular with salvaged old wood. Antiques that have been preserved in good condition are rare and are expensive. Pieces sold at tourist areas at comparatively low price are usually reproductions.
About Tibetan Furniture
There is no tradition of fine furniture in Tibet, as there is in China. Since only softwoods, such as pine and cedar were available on the high plateau, the emphasis was not on the wood, as in Chinese hardwood furniture, but on painted decorations. Like all other areas of Tibetan art, these often reveal certain defining character relating to a strong Buddhist culture, typically taking on Tantric practices originating from India. Because of their largely nomadic existence, most ordinary Tibetans had little if any furniture. There were no chairs, as people preferred to sit on the rug, the floor or a low platform. Small tables, some portable, were used to serve food and drink, and often as altar tables on which offerings could be placed. Chests were used to store precious things. Monasteries needed large cabinets to store the vast quantities of precious silks, thangkas, and Buddhist scriptures they accumulated through trade and donations.