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Wood that glitters

Updated: 2012-12-07 08:58
By Lin Qi ( China Daily)

Wood that glitters

A cabinet with black lacquer and golden lotus flower patterns.

A highlight of the exhibition is a large qiaotou'an table with two recessed trestle legs and upturned ends. The large piece - created sometime in the period spanning the late Ming or early Qing dynasties - is 4.34 meters long and 1.01 meters high.

But despite its dimensions, the table's appearance is anything but awkward because of its simple angles.

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The shelf's mushroom and cloud patterns embellish the otherwise simple structure with ornate flair.

Jinsi nanmu logging was the exclusive privilege of imperial families before Qing Emperor Daoguang (1821-50). In the Ming and Qing dynasties, use of the wood in constructing buildings required court approval. But ordinary families fashioned furniture from it during this period.

Visitors to the exhibition can also learn about and appreciate the sophisticated techniques used to make furniture in times of yore. Carpenters passed down these tricks of the trade for generations.

One exhibit, for instance, displays an antique bed that's disassembled to clearly show its mortise and tenon structure.

A special section presents furniture sets designed by contemporary connoisseurs.

"Nanmu furniture was not so popular among collectors, but now, there is a new trend," says Curtis Evarts, an American connoisseur of classical Chinese furniture in Shanghai.

"Besides appraising the material itself, I hope people can pay equal attention to the design."

Wood that glitters

He designed several pieces of furniture at the exhibition, including a four-legged silver ingot incense stand.

"The difficulty in designing this stand is that it has no straight line," he says.

"I have to take care of every curve and circular measure. Even a simple-looking piece deserves careful consideration of a lot of details.

"You don't have to do much sculpting on furniture made of jinsi nanmu, as the natural grain is refined enough. People only need to appreciate the expressiveness of the design and the philosophy of ancient literati."

Contact the writer at linqi@chinadaily.com.cn.

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