Back in China with a whistle stop vist to Shanghai and Anhui
I’m over in China again catching up with the factories that produce our reproduction oriental furniture ranges, choosing more antiques and sourcing the smaller accessories that we will ship with our next container. I arrived in Beijing on Friday night but first off was a quick two day visit to Shanghai to meet up with the team that handle our Classical Chinese furniture and to visit the factory, newly relocated to Anhui province further to the west.
I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post about the huge upheaval that’s taken place in both Beijing and Shanghai in the furniture and other industries. Factories have had to either move out of the two cities at short notice or face closure as the powers that be attempt to tackle pollution.
Many smaller workshops and ateliers in particular did not have the resources to relocate at short notice, so the new regulations unfortunately meant that they were unable to survive. Many of the workshops that I visited ten or twelve years ago have now disappeared altogether.
The factory that we have used over recent years for our own furniture was based on the outskirts of Shanghai but also had larger premises already established in Xuancheng, a region in the Southeast of Anhui. They were therefore luckier than most in that they were able to relocate the work carried out in Shanghai without too much disruption. The majority of the cutters, carpenters, painters and finishers have also moved, which means that the same team is essentially still in place.
Xuancheng is around 4 hours by car from Shanghai so it’s possible to get there and back in a day with time for a few hours at the factory. As I discovered though it’s a long day when you factor in jet lag from the previous day’s arrival! The journey there was interesting as the huge metropolis of Shanghai gradually receded into a less dense, flatter landscape and then into a greener, hillier space. We’re not talking rolling green hills and countryside – Anhui is still densely populated – but it is noticeably more open and breathable than the larger city.
The factory itself is quite large and spacious, employing around 50 workers including the cooks and other staff who help run the complex. It’s well equipped, with separate, spacious buildings for the carpentry, drying, finishing and other parts of the furniture production process.
With one container due to arrive with us in the UK next week, we won’t be shipping from this factory again for a little while, but the carpenters had already completed the wood work for much of our next order, so I was able to check and discuss what they had carried out so far. It was also good to get a full tour of the premises and to view the various parts of the production process being carried out.
Along with our own furniture the factory also produces pieces for the Chinese domestic market, including some very nice ‘hongmu’ (rosewood) furniture and beautifully figured pieces made from ‘Phoebe’ wood – a material that has been highly prized for centuries with a beautiful, golden sheen.
The factory owner also has a few prized Chinese antiques and other high end items of furniture on display outside his office. The antiques are all in their original, unrestored state and one or two are particularly special. A cabinet in red lacquer from Shanxi province showed the original paintings still in excellent condition – the gold ‘miao jin’ decoration still intact in places over the beautifully executed darker paintings of figures from legend.
|Old beams ready for cutting||Paintings on Shanxi cabinet||Vegetables at the factory|
Tomorrow I'll make the first of two more long trips out of Beijing, this time South by train and car to Shandong province to check out both antiques and reproduction furniture with another supplier that relocated recently, before more antique sourcing in Beijing itself over my final couple of days. I’ll let you know what I find.