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Determining The Age of Chinese Antiques Print E-mail

John Rogers: Hi, I'm John.

Yuqing Zhao: I'm Yuqing.

John Rogers: Welcome to our continuing series on antique Chinese furniture. Today we’re going to be talking about how you ascertain the age of a piece. And frankly, it can be darned hard. First of all there's some things you can't look at. Style is one of them. The style of Chinese furniture has been virtually unchanged for over 500 years. The second, you can't tell by way of construction because the construction of Chinese furniture has been virtually the same for over 500 years except for very, very modern furniture which is made with plywood, screws and nails and that will be immediately obvious to you.

Third you cannot tell necessarily by way of the finish because Chinese can be made so that the finish looks very crackled and old. But there are ways of playing a good detective and knowing something about age. And Yuqing is going to tell us how to do that.

Yuqing Zhao: Yeah there are basically two ways to tell an old piece of furniture within a 50 year band. The one thing is how much restoration it has. When it has more it means it's older although it does not mean it's more valuable. But if a piece of furniture has a broken leg and replaced later on you'll see the connection of old and new and that means this leg has been used, has been worn a lot and is too broken to use now and you have to replace it that means this piece is probably over 100 years old and has been used for many years.

And the other thing is the wear and the tear. If a pull on a drawer and you see underneath it has a deep wear underneath the drawer it means this drawer has been pulled out and pushed back in a lot of times and this is a very typical mark to show how old this piece is. If it's a really deep, deep mark underneath there you'll see this is probably over 100 years old. So if it's little bit wear and tear and it's not as deep then it's 50 years or something.

If you see the doors you'll see the same thing. If you open and shut a lot and the door frame will show some marks from use to tell how many times they're used this, how old this piece is basically.

John Rogers: And one last thing we’re going to show you which we find interesting is this door. This door is from a piece of furniture that’s well over 100 years old. But Yuqing is going to tell us why this door has some additional interest, Yuqing?

Yuqing Zhao: Okay the front is a very old. This door is from an old piece of furniture, original color, and original hardware. And if you turn this over, turn this around, we’ll see some original paintings from the inside. And in the center the interesting part is one of the paintings is covered with lacquer, red lacquer. And John you have some story to tell about this one?

John Rogers: Yes. This panel probably had a picture of the stellar trio or one of the eight immortals. During the time of the Cultural Revolution Mao Zedong was trying to get rid of those myths. So many of the homeowners, in order to be politically correct, painted over with red paint such figures. Thanks so much for watching our videos. We hope you’ve enjoyed them and we’d be most interested in your comments.

Yuqing Zhao: Thank you.