Ming Dynasty Furniture
The antique furniture of China was in its peak time during the Ming Dynasty. The stable society ensured the well development in agriculture and handicraft industry. In the late Min Dynasty, the rich commodities and multi-way trade routes offered a good condition for furniture making industry. During this time, Yangtze River southern areas and Southern Sea regions gradually became the leading places to making elaborate China style furniture.
Background of Ming Dynasty Furniture
With frequent economic and cultural exchange with foreign countries, and imports of precious timber form southeast Asia, a large number of palaces, residential buildings, and gardens were built on an unbridled scale. Meanwhile, many scientific and technical books on cabinet-making came into being, such as "Lu Ban Jing", "Xiu shi Lu" (Decoration Record), "Zun Sheng Ba Jian (The eight letters of Zun Sheng), and San Cai Tu Hui (Pictorial Collection of three Talents). All of this helped the development of Ming furniture or reach an unparalleled level. The achievements of its modeling art, manufacturing techniques, and functional standards took on a distinctive style and gained important place among the furniture of the world.
Characters of Ming Dynasty Furniture
Ming Dynasty furniture was rich in varieties and styles which can be detected from the paintings and woodcuts in the existing Ming furniture. It can be divided by function into six categories: stools and chairs; tables and desks; cabinets and chests; beds and couches; platforms and racks; and screens.
At this time, the concept of furniture sets was formed, and complete sets of furniture appeared in hall, bedroom, and study, divided by the function of each space. They were usually arranged symmetrically, for instance one table with two chairs or four stools. Sometimes furniture was arranged freely in accordance with tow chairs of four stools. Sometimes furniture was arranged freely in accordance with the size of the room and requirements of use.
Materials used for Ming Dynasty Furniture
The timber used in Ming Dynasty furniture was of tough quality, high strength, beautiful color and fine grain. The woods used including
Huanghuali or yellow flowering pear 茅禄鈥灻ㄅ犅泵β⒙ε撀?(D. odorifern T. chel), a member of the rosewood family
Red sandalwood 莽麓芦忙陋鈧ε撀?(Pterocarpus santalinus)
Siam or Thailand rosewood 茅鈥β该ε韭澝ε撀?(Dalbergia cochinchinensis)
Ceylon ebony盲鹿艗忙艙篓 (Diospyros ebenum)
Kassod 茅赂隆莽驴鈥γε撀?(Senna Siamea - earlier known as Cassia Siamea)
All but the last became rare by the late Qing Dynasty and are in limited supply today. Senna Siamea is a fast growing tree and is being promoted as an ecological solution in many hot dry areas around the world. All of these are hardwoods and often have great color and figure.
This contributed to the production of extremely precise, scientific tenon structures. The parts were small but of high strength; the shape was simple but could be carved and processed ornately. The frame structure developed in the Song Dynasty advanced to quit a high artistic level in the Ming Dynasty, and this structure, combined with creative new styles and ornaments on the accessory parts, gave Ming furniture a pure and simple, but elegant and delicate style, unique in its complementary use of the hard and the soft.
Influence of Ming Dynasty Furniture
Both Ming and Qing furniture had a strong influence on English and French furniture, notably through Chippendale and Hepplewhite in the 18th century. Furniture moved from the heavy, almost bulbous, examples of the William and Mary period to furniture that was light and airy. The chairs, in particular, benefited from the Chinese influence both in technique and design.