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A Quick Guide to Chinese Antique Furniture

Chinese antiques are highly sought after because of their excellent craftsmanship and beauty.

However, these antiques should not just be considered historical examples of Chinese art.

Even after hundreds of years, many antiques are still in usable condition today and can be found in homes all over the world. This is not only true of Chinese porcelain but furniture as well, notably from the Ming Dynasty and Qing Era.

Here’s a quick guide on Chinese antique furniture and why it is so valued, even today.

Chinese Antique Furniture

A large portion of Chinese antique furniture is from the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

These pieces of furniture tend to come in one of two forms, waistless and waisted.

Waistless furniture lacks an inset panel between its top and apron, as seen with the recessed-leg table. This type of furniture existed as early as the Shang dynasty. Waisted furniture, which includes the inset panel, came at a much later time.

Chinese Hall Furniture

In Imperial China, the hall was the largest room in the house. This was for entertaining guests, celebrating weddings, and holding funerals.

As this room was for guests and special occasions, it is no surprise that it housed the family’s most expensive, beautiful furniture. Because of the quality craftsmanship and wood these pieces of furniture had, many have survived to modern times:

Types of Hall Furniture

During the imperial period, the types of furniture found in halls were quite specific.

A Chinese hall had to have four tea tables, each with two chairs, in the center of the room. Two walls had interchangeable, decorative panels that could be switched as the seasons changed or when there was a special occasion. The other two walls consisted of carved wainscoting.

Along the walls, there would be a specific order of serving tables, clothes racks, room dividers, and arhat beds. During the Qing era especially, antique accessories such as Chinese porcelain and other antique art may have been on display in this area.

Ming Furniture

Many consider the furniture built during the Ming Dynasty to be the golden era of antique Chinese furniture. While the design of Ming furniture may seem basic with its straight lines and simple curves, its craftsmanship is excellent and balances beauty and function quite well.

Ming furniture is typically constructed from one large piece of quality wood.

The wood was often joined together through mortise and tenon joints. These joints simply fit together, similar to how a jigsaw puzzle does, so no nails or screws are necessary. This allowed the furniture to be dismantled and transported by horse as needed.

The wood could also join together through a method called dovetailing, in which the wood interlocks.

Both types of joints are still used today on quality furniture, as they are simple, strong, and fit together so well that glue is not necessary. This also allows the wood to expand and contract with the humidity.

Qing Furniture

Chinese antiques from the Qing era expand far beyond the stunning, ornate porcelain that can be identified by their Chinese pottery mark.

The furniture of that era is also incredibly elaborate. Qing furniture was often big, made from more than one piece of wood, and decorated with dramatic embellishments, including openwork, ivory carvings, and inlays of pearl or jade.

While Qing furniture has a completely different style from furniture from the Ming dynasty, they are equals in terms of craftsmanship and wood quality.

Chinese Antiques in Modern Times

Chinese antique furniture pieces are more than just art pieces and displays found in museums.

These Chinese antiques are not just beautiful, but they are impressively functional as well. Even after so many centuries, they are still used in many homes because of their excellent craftsmanship.

If you enjoyed reading this article, be sure to check out some of our other posts on items throughout history.

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