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Woods in Chinese Antiques - Elm Print E-mail

John Rogers: Hi I'm John.

Yuqing Zhao: I'm Yuqing.

John Rogers: And we're here today in our continuing series of videos about Chinese furniture. And today we're going to be talking about the woods that are used. We need to kind of think about Chinese history just a little bit in considering the woods. The Ming era which was a long, long time ago used two predominant woods for good furniture -- usually known as Chinese Classical furniture. And that can be found today in museums throughout the world. Those two woods are zitan which is a very dark colored wood almost the same color as the dark walnut, and huanghuali which is naturally a much blonder colored wood about the color of American maple. But that furniture which is now prohibited appropriately from export by the Chinese government was never used by the everyday Chinese people. Those people used furniture made from different woods and Yuqing is here to tell us about the kinds of woods that are most frequently found in the countryside or in as we might call it Chinese country or vernacular furniture.

Yuqing Zhao: Yes, now what we can find from ordinary Chinese households in the countryside are the woods that are elm and poplar and cypress. These are the furniture we can find in China basically not huanghuali. And elm is used most often it's like 70% of people use elm wood or elm combination. This is a very typical piece of furniture that's made out of elm wood. Let's take a close look at this top. And this is elm wood, when we take a first look at it we already know because this is very clear wood grain. This elm wood looks similar to American oak but nicer grain I would say a similar heartiness. John will say some more about in the detail of how to tell this is elm.

John Rogers: Depending upon how this wood is planed at the top, you're going to be able to see what looks like a series of mountain tops juxtaposed on each other. That is a very classical way of identifying elm. If you look at the side piece the grain still is very predominant but is much straighter along it just depends upon how that wood has been cut. But you can still see the individual strands of grain as you look through it.

Yuqing Zhao: It still takes longer - you need to see more than one pieces to know what elm wood looks like.

John Rogers: Yes, okay. So now we've spent a fair amount of time on elm and in our next videos we're going to talk about the other woods that you're going to find most frequently in Chinese country furniture. Thanks so much for watching.

Yuqing Zhao: Thank you.