Some Favourite Finds Hand Picked from China

Some Favourite Finds Hand Picked from China

I've just returned from a visit to China, catching up with our suppliers and lining up another collection of wonderful antique furniture to ship with our containers over the coming months. This was the first time I had been able to get out to the country in almost five years, following the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions that made things impractical. Whilst modern technology and the close ties developed over years of cooperation with our suppliers meant that we were able to work without interruption over this period, nothing beats being able to see and touch the huge selection of antiques available in spacious warehouses in China. It is also always good to cement personal relationships and to witness at first hand some beautiful cabinets, tables and sideboards in the process of being restored. There are always some rare, stand out pieces that are a pleasure to see and something new to learn.

Below: Antique cabinet from Shanxi undergoing restoration

Shanxi cabinet in the process of restoration

In the early days of sourcing antiques there were dozens of companies, mostly small in size, based in and around Beijing. Each one of these would source old furniture from around China's provinces and carefully restore it at their workshops before selling on mostly for export. In more recent years most of these workshops have been forced to either close altogether or to move far out of the city limits as land is redeveloped and big business moves in. As a result there are far fewer dealers still in business and it requires travelling much further afield to view their current inventory. However, the dealers who have survived are those that have found their own niche, either in specialising in a particular type of finish or regional style, or who continue to have access to higher quality antique furniture that will always be in demand.

A high speed train south to Shandong province was my first excursion, with an overnight stay and a chance to put together a new collection of beautiful lacquered and painted antiques that you'll be able to view soon on our website. Refinished cabinets and sideboards in gorgeous lacquers and more contemporary colours were mixed with more authentic, aged pieces in their original finish.

Below: Old doors in elm wood drying in the sun

Old Elm Doors

I also caught up with one of the main factories we use for our reproduction furniture, including or popular range of Chinese Classical lacquered pieces, to discuss some new designs and to check some of their recent production. Along with more traditional Chinese furniture, they are creating a wonderful range using old reclaimed elm doors (seen left lain out in the sun) sourced from farms and other rural buildings that are undergoing redevelopment. The timber has a superb, weathered, tactile quality that oozes character and lends itself perfectly to a more natural, rustic finish, with every piece being unique. We can't wait to ship over some first samples and to share these with you soon.

Below: Stallholder at Panjiayuan market selling bronzes

Panjiayuan market

From Shandong it was another quick train ride back to Beijing and a visit to the famous Panjiayuan market on Sunday. In a city that is changing so quickly, it was somehow reassuring to find that the market had changed little since my last visit, still with the same mind boggling display made up of thousands of stalls and vendors, offering everything from traditional jewellery, wood carvings, bronzes and pottery to textiles, watercolours, stoneware and jade.

Below: Old wooden buckets stacked in a warehouse

Over the next couple of days I visited other old friends - a couple of dealers based near Tianjin southeast of Beijing who I have known now for nearly twenty years and who are still sourcing and restoring some wonderful antiques, particularly from Shanxi province and Gansu in western China. There are some types of furniture - such as good quality painted wedding cabinets or sideboards from Shanxi and walnut furniture from Gansu - that are increasingly difficult to source, so it was good to know that we still have access to these through our old contacts. I look forward to sharing more of my finds with you on the website soon.

We will be processing everything lined up on my visit over the coming weeks and shipping the first container soon. You'll already find the first collection online to pre-order for delivery later in the summer, with dozens more antiques to be added. Keep an eye out on our new arrivals for all the latest additions.

My final day in China gave me a chance to get out of the city for a visit to Mutianyu - a section of the Great Wall about 40 miles northeast of the centre of Beijing. It's over 20 years since I had a chance to visit the Great Wall (on that occasion to the Simatai section further out) and just as then it was a hugely memorable experience. 

My visit coincided with the Chinese Labor Day holiday, so the crowds were out in force early on but soon thinned out as I got to the further reaches of the wall. A strenuous walk in 26 degree heat (a thousand steep steps just to get onto the wall) was rewarded by breathtaking views of the hills and valleys and of the wall itself snaking over the mountain tops as far as the eye could see. I was back in Beijing by the evening to catch a midnight flight home, feeling happy to have caught up with old contacts and excited about the beautiful new selection of antiques we've put together.

Top image: stacks of stools, final touches to an antique table and wall panels and benches in a Tianjin warehouse.

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