There is a poem in the Book of Songs that goes like this, “An elegant and accomplished gentleman should increase his self-discipline as hard as cutting and polishing a stone.”
Traditional Chinese furniture underwent millennia of chiseling and polishing. Beginning the Shang and Zhou Dynasties, all the way until the Han and Wei Dynasties, bamboo and other grasses were weaved to create furniture. Later, the Song and Yuan dynasties saw a flourishing of tall-legged furniture, and after years of accumulation and evolution, furniture finally reached its pinnacle of development during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
From scholars to ordinary citizens, from Buddhists to Royal families; furniture is an essential existence, even seen on the murals of burial chambers. Furniture builders exercise their imaginations to build furniture based on the natural textures and colors of the materials. Traditional furniture emphasizes the importance of structural aesthetics. Different pieces are connected by mortice and tenon joints, allowing them to not only be aesthetically pleasing, but also durable and long-lasting. After designing and selecting the material of a piece of furniture, a skillful craftsman would decorate the piece by carving, inlaying, and accessorizing. Traditional furniture is thus created, from beginning to end, in one stretch. It is simple and unadorned, classic and elegant.
Compared with European-style furniture in pursuit of magnificence, luxury and individuality, Chinese furniture abides by the ritual law and pays attention to inner temperament and dignity. The use of lines in Chinese painting is widely used in Ming furniture. These lines are rich in emotion, just like music, showing a kind of rational beauty. In today's art historian's view, the Song-style furniture has been the representative of minimalism.
Since ancient times, furniture has been closely tied in with every one’s daily life. Traditional furniture embodies the transformation of a man’s way of living, exemplifies the aesthetic interests of scholars, and reflects the cultural connotation and spiritual pursuit of the saying, “Theory is based on objects”.
Traditional Chinese style furniture until now also inspires the western modern furniture designers, such as Hans Wagner, who was enlightened by Ming-style furniture. The most famous Y Chair, for example, was designed after a Chinese circular chair. Nowadays, the "New Chinese" style, with the core of inheriting the essence of tradition, is quietly emerging in the life of the Chinese people.