At the beginning of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), furniture followed Ming patterns and styles. During the reign of Emperors Kangxi, Yong Zheng, and Qian Long, Qing Furniture showed its own uniqueness with the absorption of western art. It was larger in size with grandeur and pageantry.
Engraving was a popular and important means of furniture decoration. The subjects range from auspicious character patterns, to geometric patterns and scenes in nature with animals, mountains and waters, flowers and grass. Color painting, especially gold painting, was widely used.
The centers were formed in Beijing, Shanxi, Guangzhou and Suzhou. In the Forbidden City in Beijing (Jing for short), the best craftsmen used the choicest wood to make Jing-styled furniture under the guidance of the emperors.
Furniture made in Guangdong (Guang for short) shows the influence of Western art. In contrast to the Su-style, Guang-style is unstinting in the use of material, and the furniture looks solid and massive. The Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family in Guangzhou has a display of Guang-styled furniture.
Furniture from Suzhou (Su for short) and surrounding area enjoys the highest artistic value. Suzhou gardens such as Lingering Garden , Garden of the Master of the Nets , Humble Administrator’s Garden , Lion Grove Garden feature precious collections of Su-styled furniture.
Furniture made in Shanxi (Jin for short) is a harmonious blending of royal demeanor and local cultural heritage. Shanxi was one of the richest places in China during the Qing Dynasty, of which Rishengchang Exchange Shop in Pingyao, the earliest bank in China, is good evidence.
With the increasing importance of Jin merchants, commercial symbols emerged, such as patterns concerning money and fortune. Unlike other styles, Jin-style has less engraving; instead, inlays of stone, porcelain and bone, which catch the eye more easily than exquisite engraving, are used to tell of the luxurious lifestyle of the owner. In addition, color and gold painting become the vogue depicting the preference for gaudiness by the wealthy. Another feature of Jin-styled furniture is the widely applied walnut wood.
The ancient Ming and Qing Streets, Qiao’s Compound and Wang’s Compound in Pingyao, Shanxi, provide a sufficient testimony to the aesthetic and cultural achievement in Jin-style furniture. Chinese Ming and Qing Furniture Gallery of Shanghai Museum is an ideal place to appreciate various styles of classical furniture. In the past 20 years, Ming and Qing furniture has enjoyed an elevated reputation as art and as investment, and its value is increasing. (scr)