History of Chinese Furniture


In ancient China, people used to sit or kneel on straw mats on the floor. Starting from around 471 to 221B.C., beds and mats came into being. Then people started to move their daily living from the floor to somewhere of raised heights. From then on, straw mats were used mostly on beds and couches.

Not only chairs and stools, various designs of furniture has arrived its summit in the Ming and Ching dynasties. In Ming dynasty, smooth, flowing lines and elegant ornamentation were the motifs at the time. In Ching dynasty, furniture design turned to richer ornament together with more coordinated engraved details. And in more modern days, most Chinese furniture designs are heavily influenced by the above two periods in history.

Since furniture has come in being, wood has been the major material used. With China's rich forest resources, it is nothing surprising. There are two main materials being used, lacquered and hardwood. Beside, bamboo and rattan furniture is also common in areas of warmer and sunnier weather.

The most frequently used woods in high quality furniture are huganhuali mu (yellow flower pear wood), jichi mu (phoenix tail or chicken wing wood) and zitan mu (dark-purple sandlewood).

Huanghuali mu was often used in both Ming and Ching dynasties. Huanghuali mu is one of the world's most precious woods. It can reach up to 36 meters tall with a diameter of 1 meter. This wood is commonly found in Thailand, Burma and Vietnam. In ancient China, Huanghuali mu and Zitan were as precious and costly as gold and gem. Jichi mu is a kind of very hard wood. It is often found in Burma, Thailand, India and Vietnam. This type of wood is of even more rarity than both Huganhuali and Zitan. Its name came into being due to its feather-like pattern which resembles that of birds. Zitan mu is an extremely hard rosewood. This type of wood is just so hard and dense that it sinks in water. It is commonly found in America, Africa, India, Vietnam and Burma. It is said that it is very difficult for it to grow bigger than a diameter of 7 inches. That is why it is very difficult to get big trunks from this tree. It has a tree trunk of yellow color. But with enough exposure in the air, the yellow will change to dark red. It gives off fragrant smell and it is one of China's medicinal herbs. With a chair made of Zitan, people will receive good medicinal treatment by sitting on it.

For a long time, ancient Chinese furniture has been a treasure of furniture aficionados. However, not much of what was produced in ancient China was kept because a piece of good work was not rated valuably. It was not until Ming and Ching dynasties that good pieces of furniture were valued and treasured by people. Even in the two periods, most furniture was either destroyed locally or looted by invaders from the West. In fact, similar situation lasted until recent China during the Communist revolution when communal chaos destroyed cabinets, chest and chairs for fuel and any possession of quality would have considered against the government at the time.

As a result, apart from the few items which managed to escape with their expatriate or diplomatic families to places like Hong Kong or to the West, a limited collection can be found in museums such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Palace Museum in Beijing.

In fact, with ancient Chinese furniture gaining more worldly attention and international status to its high quality and worth, prices of a true piece can command up to as much as one is willing to pay.

With increasing worldwide attention and appreciation, Chinese furniture is gaining its international position.

Asia Dragon is now offering its wide range of furniture design both in our website and our shop, The Oriental Center, located in Headrow Center, Leeds. As complete, we also provide home furnishing products, ornaments, accessories, clothes, kimonos and etc. Kindly visit our homepage or visit our shop in person and you will be surprised.