National Palace Museum

Splendors of Ch'ing Furniture

  • Dates: Permanent Exhibit 2006-05-19~
  • Gallery: (Northern Branch) Exhibition Area I 108
Furniture is an art form combining both aesthetic with pragmatic qualities. Like the features of one's face, once the location and features of the eyes and mouth have been established, a whole range of beauty, expression, and emotion becomes possible within a limited space.

The development of Chinese furniture reached its apex approximately between the 15th and 17th centuries. At that time, carpenters used such hardwoods as "tzu-t'an" (red sandalwood) and "huang-hua-li" (rosewood) because of their firm texture and fine grain. Taking into consideration the taste of scholars, craftsmen designed forms and structures that emulated the graceful contours of calligraphic strokes. Hence, so-called "Ming-style furniture" gradually emerged with a simple yet elegantly succinct style along with a sense of strong charm in its graceful beauty. In the 18th century, following an upsurge in demand for furniture by the court, imperial taste increasingly drove the style of furniture to become somewhat more dignified and majestic, even luxurious and opulent in presentation. Apart from incorporating some elements of Western aesthetics, relatively more emphasis was placed on meticulous decoration, as craftsmen fully utilized clever techniques of carving, inlay, painting, and appliqué to produce the desired results.

The collection of the National Palace Museum includes a set of red sandalwood furniture originating principally from the imperial residence of Prince Kung. Red sandalwood has always been valued for its hardness and density. Though not as brilliant or beautiful as rosewood in terms of color, red sandalwood nonetheless imparts a sense of serenity and stability. Though these pieces of furniture derive from the same source, they were not originally from the same set, the styles actually ranging from the 17th to 19th centuries. However, much attuned to the modern taste of mixing and matching styles together, this exhibition is an attempt to construct two complementary sets of furniture arrangement: one for the more active setting of a living room and the other for the quietude of the scholar's studio. Consulting scenes of Ch'ing dynasty life depicted in imperial paintings, various pieces of painting and calligraphy, curios, and display objects have been included here to provide a more accurate reconstruction of a room at the time. With these objects, whose original meaning may be obscured by placing them in isolation behind glass walls in display cases, we can rediscover their original setting within the simulated time and place seen here.
Splendors of Ch'ing FurnitureSplendors of Ch'ing FurnitureSplendors of Ch'ing Furniture