volume 1 number 3

Longyan Wood
An article on longyan wood furniture has been published in the September-October 2004 issue of Arts of Asia—one of a series on Chinese furniture-making woods authored by John Kwang-Ming Ang.

Longyan wood has received little attention in publications regarding Chinese furniture.
Longyan trees are highly concentrated along the coastal regions of Fujian in elevations below 300 meters; it also appears throughout southern China, including Taiwan and Hainan Island. It has long held pride of place for its clustered ‘dragon-eye’ (longyan) fruit, a delicacy that inspired poetry from Su Shi during the Song dynasty. Overshadowed in the historical record is its beautifully timber.

The lustrous, highly figured grain of longyan wood is not easily revealed. The timber is difficult to season without splitting; furthermore, its microstructure, with interlocked- and curly grain, provides as a demanding challenge for the most highly skilled craftsman. However, when a smooth unblemished surface is finally realized, the finely textured timber reveals a rich golden tone and shimmering wave-like patterns that rivals the finest hardwoods.

The survival of numerous works small works and carvings in longyan wood are a testimony to its traditional use. Furniture is rarely found outside the Fujian region, and most exhibits provinical characteristics; on rare occassions, classically styled works appear, such as that now featured as Piece of the Month at A selection of longyan wood works drawn from the Shanju Shanghai collection also demonstrates the broader range of traditional styles.

Further Notes on Reproductions and Fakes
Reproductions and/or fakes are often modelled after examples published in books. If an example is touted as being identical to one in a book, there is a good chance that it is a reproduction.

Less obvious are the 'antiqued' copies that dealers make from interesting examples of genuine antiques. Holding the original back for some time, a dealer can earn more money on the limited run of reproductions than he can on the original antique! While not all 'antiqued' reproductions are initially sold as fakes, once distributed into the foreign markets, they may be easily misrepresented and/or mistaken as genuine antiques. Such are many of the Ming-style lacquer works that are now circulating in the market place.

Library dedicated to Chinese Furniture, Architecture, and Gardens: Herbert Offen Research Collection
Housed at the Phillips Library, the research and documentation division of the Peabody Essex Museum, the Herbert Offen Research Collection focuses on books about Chinese furniture, architecture and gardens, with supporting sections that explore Japanese and Korean studies of like topics. The growing collection is poised to become one of the finest research collections for scholars in these fields. The donations have been made in memory of Herbert Offen, an inspiring and passionate enthusiast of Chinese culture, who resided in China for several years. The library collection includes antiquarian selections as well as a very comprehensive selection of books published in the last two decades in Chinese, Japanese, and English. A listing of the collection is available. Download here. (PDF format, 230k)

November Symposiums: Anhui Architecture and Tibetan Furniture
A comprehensive two-day symposium featuring Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old house from China's Anhui Province will be occuring at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, November 13-14, 2004 . The program includes lectures by fourteen international experts on Chinese culture and architecture. For registration and program information, a brocheur is available at; otherwise contact Bruce Maclaren at or call 978-745- 9500, ext. 3171.

Simultaneously, a symposium on West Coast explore Tibetan furniture as a new subject for art history, religious studies, anthropology, Tibetan studies, and related fields. For more information, visit or phone 1 626 449-2742 ext. 12 or e-mail

Wen Zhenheng on 'Positioning and Arranging' (ca 1620)
Regarding the methods of arranging furniture, the differences of complex or simple, characteristics of winter cold and summer heat, lofty halls, spacious pavilion, small quarters, or the ancestral hall—each has its own suitablilities. As for books, paintings, and ceremonial wares, each should also be arranged as though they were in a painting. In Yun Lin's Qingbi [pavillion] amongst lofty wutong trees and ancient rocks—with only a single table and couch-bed—one can visualize his temperament of solitude in the animated expression of spirit and bone. Thus, upon entering a residence of a cultivated gentleman, there will be an atmosphere of elegance and retirement from worldly concern. If, however, chickens and pigs are raised in the front courtyard, while idle talk, withered flowers, and laundry stones characterize the back courtyard, then the situation is worse than a greasy table and the surrounding walls will have an atmosphere of gloom and desolation.

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The newsletter is sponsored by Shanju Shanghai , specializing in fine antique Chinese furnishings for discriminating enthusiasts.

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