Classical Chinese furniture is
closely related both aesthetically and technically to traditional
Chinese architecture. The basic mortise and tenon system of joinery
found in hardwood furniture is deeply rooted in the ancient tradition
of architectural timber framing work.
Chinese furniture has ancient origins. A few, small examples of
lacquer furniture have survived from Warring States (475-221 B.C.)
and Han (206 B.C.-220 AD) tombs. During the Northern and Southern
Dynasties (420-589AD), possibly under Buddhist influence, the Chinese
began to change from the habit of kneeling or sitting on mats or
low platforms to sitting with legs pendent on stools and chairs.
By the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127AD), the transformation to
the use of tall tables and chairs made of soft wood seems to have
been complete. The technically structured and multi-decorated Song
furniture laid the foundation for the further development and perfection
of Ming and Qing furniture. Classical furniture reached its zenith
in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Each age was marked by its own distinctive
Ming and Qing Furniture
With the importation of durable and beautiful Southeast Asian hardwoods
during Ming, Chinese joinery techniques could be brought into a
full play. Furniture of Ming and early Qing is characterized by
simple, elegant structures with fluid lines, balanced proportions
and concealed joints. Valued for their natural beauty, richly grains
the hardwood furniture was only finished with only wax. Ming furniture
is characterized by a simple and elegant structure with fluent lines
and appropriate proportions. Qing furniture is larger and more imposing
with elaborate carvings and inlaid decorations. These two types
of furniture differed greatly in style but each reached a high level
of artistic value and had a niche in the history of world furniture.
We can see from either existing Ming furniture of the paintings
and woodcuts of that time that the furniture of the Ming Dynasty
was rich in varieties and styles. It can be divided by function
into six categories: stools and chairs; tables and desks; cabinets
and chests; beds and couches; platforms and racks; and screens.
At this time, the concept of furniture sets was formed, and complete
sets of furniture appeared in hall, bedroom, and study, divided
by the function of each space. They were usually arranged symmetrically,
for instance one table with two chairs or four stools. Sometimes
furniture was arranged freely in accordance with two chairs and
four stools. Sometimes furniture was arranged freely in accordance
with the size of the room and requirements of use.
In the early times of the Qing Dynasty, furniture followed and inherited
the traditional styles of the Ming Dynasty, with no great changes
in style or structure. But in the mid-17th century, the Qing economy
began to resume and develop to a prosperous stage, flourishing during
the reigns of Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong. Numerous royal gardens
and buildings were constructed, and the private gardens of the nobles
competed with each other for beauty. So the gaudy interior decorations
were too much stressed on the furniture. The application of precise
craftsmanship, along with the absorption of Ming Dynasty furniture
structure gave Qing furniture a unique style and distinct form.
As for structure, stress was laid on stability and impressive manner,
and many new types of furniture appeared in the Qing Dynasty, such
as the multifunction showcase, and folding and removable tables
and chairs. In the Palace Museum in Beijing, we can find many pieces
of furniture created with unparalleled skill.
Beijing has classical Chinese furniture factories
where you can choose what you want.