Hundreds of miles, hundreds of Chinese antiques
Time to catch my breath and reflect on a very busy few days in and around Beijing. With two trips by train and car down to factories in Shandong province further south as well as visits to a few antique showrooms here in the capital, I’ve covered a fair few hundred miles and viewed a similar number of items of furniture since I arrived last Friday. It’s been well worth it though, as I’ve lined up some fantastic antiques and other pieces that we will ship over the coming months to the UK.
The extra mileage travelled is down to the factories having to move out of Beijing as I’ve explained before. I’d not ben to the city since early summer last year and, as we passed by an area that once housed a number of furniture factories along with other industries, it was amazing to see the changes. In place of walled factory complexes are huge, flattened areas of newly planted trees – part of the authorities’ ambitious plans to improve the environment around the capital.
Whilst many small workshops have been forced to close down, others have taken the opportunity to invest in more modern, larger premises, albeit a long way out in either Hebei or Shandong province. One factory I visited yesterday in Shandong must have been built at a huge cost to the two owners. It is a vast improvement on their previous, comparatively small place in Beijing, purpose built, very well equipped, and employing around 100 workers. I can’t imagine the planning and logistics involved in setting up the new plant and relocating, and can only admire the resilience and enterprise shown by this factory and others in adapting to new regulations at short notice.
A huge amount of stock is now on display at the new site, including hundreds of pieces of refinished and repaired Chinese antique furniture as well as reproduction pieces. Plenty more antiques were under cover outside, brought in from the countryside around Shanxi, Gansu and other provinces and awaiting restoration. These will be repaired over the coming weeks, first cleaned and then panels and frames checked and replaced where needed using new joinery. They will then normally be refinished, either keeping the old lacquer underneath, or given a fresh colour.
The factory has a large stock of pieces awaiting repair and, rather than relying on outside parties to source and collect more antiques as is the standard practice, they now employ their own network of agents out in the regions to do this for them. As a result they are confident of being able to continue to source good quality antique furniture for years to come.
Mongolian sideboard semi-repaired
Antiques during repair
Unrestored antiques under cover
I selected 30 or 40 pieces, mostly antique but also including some nicely finished painted reproduction furniture, along with some lovely accessories – baskets, ceramic stools and tassels. We will combine all of these in our next container to ship from Beijing, together with another 40 or so antiques that I’ve chosen from other suppliers during this visit. We’ll be working on these over the coming weeks ready to show on our website so look out for plenty of updates to our ‘new arrivals’ section soon.
I’ll pick out a few of my favourite pieces for another blog post in the coming days. In the meantime, best get ready for the long flight home.