Busy day in Beijing and an unusual find
I arrived in Beijing yesterday and woke up with a jet lagged early start this morning to the pouring rain. This is the first time I’ve been here at this time of year and the humidity is something of a surprise – like a wet weekend in Yorkshire but with added heat. After the usual battle through traffic we reached the workshop on the eastern outskirts of the city and armed with coffee and umbrellas started to tour the warehouses . We already have a number of pieces lined up that we didn’t have room for on our last shipment of antiques, but the majority of space is still to fill, so I was pleased to see the usual good variety of high quality antiques. The problem is always which pieces to leave behind rather than choosing enough to fill a container.
Among the highlights today were a number of lovely pieces from Gansu province – painted grain chests that with the addition of doors at the front have been converted into more practical sideboards, as well as a couple of very elegant altar tables in walnut. I also picked out a few beautiful painted trunks from Mongolia and Qinhgai, some classic end cabinets from Beijing and a very interesting pair of ‘book trunks’ in camphor wood and with the original hardware intact, designed to be carried with poles when travelling. I hope to have all these photographed and up on our website within the next few weeks and they will be shipped over towards the end of September, arriving in the UK around the end of October.
In addition to the antiques that we will definitely ship, there were a few particularly special pieces – ones that I would class more as being towards the serious collector market than the pieces we normally import into the UK. These included a pair of rare, beautifully decorated cabinets from Qinghai province. These type of cabinets are becoming quite difficult to source even as single pieces, particularly with the original paintings in such excellent condition and with the original hardware still in place like these two. To find a matching pair still together is almost unheard of.
More unusual still is that one of the cabinets includes an inscription on the inside rear panel, giving details of when and why the cabinets were made. They were produced around 150 years ago during the Guangxu period of the Qing Dynasty, and were presented to celebrate the establishment of a new business – certainly beats having a D-list celebrity cut a ribbon! The paintings show prized possessions such as vases of flowers, books and bronzes, a common design for Qinghai furniture and designed to denote the status of the owner – in this case the business entrepreneur.
Typically of Qinghai furniture, the doors are narrow, set within the painted panels either side. Two larger doors give access to the upper section which holds one shelf inside, while a second, smaller set of doors open into the bottom part. Perhaps not the most practical design, but it does allow for the paintings to be perfectly balanced across the front surface of the cabinets.
The photo shown here, taken on a dismal day with poor light in the warehouse, by no means do these beautiful pieces justice, but we will have them photographed properly and add them up onto our website soon, so look out for further details. They are perhaps a little expensive to ship without first having a buyer so I doubt we will include them on our September shipment, but if you would like to find out more then give me a call in early September when I’m back from China!
It’s off to the markets tomorrow to check out some smaller pieces that we can ship with our furniture and then I’m due to visit a few other antique suppliers on Monday to see if we can choose some extra pieces to complement what we already have lined up. More details soon!