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Classic Chinese Furniture – Ming and Early Qing Dynasties PDF Print E-mail

by Wang Shixiang, Art Media Resources, Ltd, 1991

This book is separated into three parts: the first part discusses the various types of furniture forms and their origin, and woods used in classical furniture. The second and much longer part of the book illustrates various furniture forms. The illustrations are in color and depict some of the finest Chinese furniture ever made. The third part consists of comments about the furniture pictured in the second part. Although there are small black and white replicas of the furniture accompanying the comments, it would have been far easier for the reader if the valuable comments accompanied the large color pictures.

Therefore the book appeals to two different types of uses. The first is depicting furniture as art. One cannot help being impressed with the beauty of the furniture. Exquisite proportions, beautifully designed, each of these pieces qualifies as sculpture. The anonymous craftsmen who built this furniture were among the best this world has ever known. One of the many differences between antique Chinese furniture and antique American furniture is that many American pieces can be attributed to specific craftsmen, such as Dunlap. Unfortunately, specific attribution is virtually unknown in Chinese furniture.

The second use of the book is to couple the text with the pictures so the reader gains a greater appreciation of the actual construction itself. Mr. Wang is known as the foremost Chinese expert on Chinese furniture. His writing (translated from the original Chinese) is lucid and quite easily understood. The traditions of construction technique have been passed down through the generations, and are still being used by fine craftsmen of today.

So much country furniture is modeled after classical styles. Persons collecting Chinese antique country furniture will easily find examples of the same furniture forms in the Ming and Qing era. Most collectors or decorators hoping to achieve “harmonious furniture” for their homes can not afford Ming and Qing furniture and find later and much less expensive furniture. What has always intrigued me, however, is the historical continuity of style in Chinese furniture. One could easily find a horseshoe arm chair made in about 1850 that appears almost identical when compared with one made three hundred years earlier. That is the reason the collector of country furniture will always be studying and learning from and about classical furniture.

This book is a jewel, and a “must have” for the serious collector. It is available from Paragon Books in Chicago.