Chinese Furniture Materials:
Camphor (Xiangzhang) 樟木

Because of its resistance to insects as well as its attractive grain patterns, camphor wood (Cinnamomum camphora) has long been used for making wardrobes and storage chests. Camphor is a large evergreen tree of the laurel family. It frequently grows to huge proportions approaching 50 meters in height with trunks reaching 5 meters in diameter. It is widely distributed south of the Yangzi River including Hainan Island, with the largest concentrations found in Taiwan, followed by Jiangxi and Fujian.

The pale sapwood of camphor is clearly distinguished from the heartwood, whose reddish-brown color is typically figured with darker reddish striations. The fragrance of camphor is intense after freshly cut, and its strong scent does not diminish with time. The interlocked grain pattern of camphor imparts a light and dark striped figure patterned with its open pores appearing as slanted parallel lines in the radial surface. It is light to medium in weight (.42-.54 g/cm3) and soft to medium in hardness. It is relatively stable but not particularly strong as a timber. The texture is even, and the surface can be polished to a rich luster.

Yellow Camphor (C. parthenoxylon) also grows throughout southern China, but does not reach the mammoth proportions of its relative. Although the material is similarly figured, it is lighter in color, and less dense; and after cutting, its fragrance dissipates with time. This material is often substituted for the more highly prized variety.

Extract from:

Evarts, Curtis. C. L. Ma Collection: Traditional Furniture from the Greater Shanxi Region, 1999.