China visit – antique furniture, stoneware and pottery ordered and on the way soon
I met my main contact here in Beijng on Sunday morning and headed straight off to Panjiayuan – the large weekend antique market near the centre of the city. The market is made up of hundreds of little stalls and shops offering some furniture but mostly smaller pieces such as jewellery, jade, artwork, pottery or traditional crafts. In front of the main area is a smaller courtyard where dozens of hawkers lay out their wares on mats and rugs. Most of the items on offer are of very little value – I’ve seen everything from Mao’s little red books (mostly fake I understand) to early telephones and wireless sets, as well as shards of pottery, watches and stones. I avoid this part of the market as it takes time and a keener eye than mine to find the odd valuable item among the huge selection of fakes and general tat.
Instead we first headed to some of the stalls and shops that I have dealt with before to pick up some nice accessories – silk and jade tassels, silk embroidery, photos and decorative jade or wooden calligraphy brushes. We also took a short detour to the new warehouse of a pottery supplier I had bought from before – located not far from the market. As well as the usual green or blue and white pieces, there were some interesting designs that I hadn’t seen before – vases, ceramic stools and pots. We put together an order for several pieces that will be included on our next container from Beijing for arrival in the UK in the new year. It was then back to the Panjiayuan to check out the vendors selling stoneware at one end of the front square. There is a large selection, ranging from smaller carvings of buddhas, horses or temple lions right up to oversized statues – many of which would need a crane to shift. I chose a few smaller items including some nicely carved marble elephants and stone seated buddhas.
|Antique ‘tiger chest from the Qinghai and Tibet border||Stone buddhas in the grounds of the Beijing antique workshop||Qinghai red and gold decorated cabinet||Stone Mongolian Jars in the grounds of the Beijing antique workshop|
The next day was sunny but bitterly cold so I was glad of the long, padded, ex-army coat that I was loaned – ideal for keeping warm in unheated, drafty warehouses. I spent the day with my main supplier here, reviewing the new ‘Beijing stock’ section of our website and previewing some of the antique cabinets and tables that will very soon be added to this collection. We will continue to increase the selection of stock held in Beijing that can be viewed in this part of our website in order to give as wide a choice as possible, so look out for the latest items in the next week or so.
While there I also chose about 20 antique cabinets, trunks and tables from the warehouse for our next container. These included a beautiful large cabinet from Qinghai in western China, still with its original red lacquer and refined gold decoration – a type of piece that is difficult to come by nowadays. As soon as we have photos and further details of these items they will also go up on the website.
Lastly we discussed ideas for future reproduction furniture and looked at some recent pieces that they have been making for other customers in America and Europe, including some beautiful solid wood dining tables. As the price of reclaimed elm wood has become increasingly expensive in China they have been for some time using other materials as well – particularly poplar and pine. The finish they achieve with these though is very different from the pine finish we are used to in the UK. The wood is worked to have a deep, very attractive grain and texture rather than the flat, uninteresting look that we are used to seeing on most cheap pine furniture. We hope to offer some of this furniture in the future, initially available to order direct from Beijing, but perhaps later from stock held in the UK.