Some great antiques lined up for our next shipment

Some great antiques lined up for our next shipment

My last few days in Beijing were spent selecting more Chinese antique furniture to be included on our next container, to be shipped in a month or so from now. I visited a couple of other suppliers that we regularly buy from, each of which has a certain speciality in terms of the pieces they hold or the type of finish that they carry out when restoring antiques.

The first of these has a fairly limited selection nowadays as they have moved more into hardwood reproduction furniture aimed at the Chinese market, but they still have some good quality painted armoires and cabinets from Shanxi province, as well as some nice carved furniture from Shaanxi (where the ancient capital of Xian and the terracotta warriors are located). In amongst the collection were also some now quite rare painted Mongolian pieces – with their distinctive palette of reds, blues and yellows.

Antiques arriving ready to be restored Shaanxi Antique Painted Cabinet Shanxi Book Cabinet in Elm

The second supplier is the one that I enjoy visiting the most when I’m in Beijing. The majority of antique restoration workshops in and around the city tend to rely on other businesses that source old pieces from around China and sell them on in an unrestored state. This particular supplier prefers instead to source the antiques he restores direct from the countryside. As a result he is often able to find items that are unavailable in other warehouses – particularly old furniture from Shanxi in elm and walnut, simple in style but beautifully made. Some of the antiques he has available are of museum quality – Ming dynasty altar tables, daybeds or tapered cabinets – most of which he holds as his own private collection. However, even the mid-range pieces that he sells are often quite rare or unusual compared to the offering elsewhere. What I also like is the very natural restoration and finishing that he uses, resulting in an understated look that puts the focus on the beauty and form of the piece of furniture. Whilst there is certainly a place for the refinished, lacquered and shiny look that the majority of other suppliers tend to prefer, I think there is something about this more subtle, sympathetic finishing that really brings out the character of each original piece.

After two or three hours carefully viewing the collection of around a thousand restored pieces, wandering the dozens of aisles of cabinets, tables, trunks and chairs, I ended up with around 30 or 40 items for our next container. Amongst my favourites is a beautiful book cabinet from Shanxi in elm and dating from the early 19th century. The bottom section of the cabinet has two doors, mounted on the original heavy brass hinges, whilst the top section has two doors and side panels in wonderful open carving – originally designed to show off the owner’s books or prized possessions.

I also selected a beautiful pair of side chairs, also from Shanxi and in elm and with an almost art deco look despite dating from the late 19th century. These are unusual in that the curved backrest is made up of four curved posts rather than the standard single piece of curved wood, whilst the supporting struts below the seat are rounded and delicately carved.

One further highlight is a wonderful cabinet in red lacquer from Shaanxi province – the upper drawer in carved relief being typical of furniture from that region. The doors are set centrally, each in a pale lacquer and decorated with a painted figure. Four smaller figures are shown on panels either side of the doors, each in traditional dress. The cabinet dates from the early 19th century and it is unusual to find a piece like this with the original paintings and finish still intact and in relatively good condition. I’m looking forward to getting this lovely cabinet in our showroom in a couple of months from now.

We should have photos for these pieces and all others that I chose in Beijing in the next few weeks so look out for the full selection on our website in the next month or so or check out our Facebook page over the coming days for more photos of some of my favourites.

More details to follow of my final days in Beijing and Shanghai …

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