The style difference of Ming and Qing furniture (Zhi Wen)

Song Young-gil


Photo 1: Huang Hua pear, like a straw wrapped circular chair.

Photo 2: red sandalwood embedded pastel, Four Seasons flower and bird pictures, porcelain chair

The the Imperial Palace Museum has more than 6000 pieces of Ming and Qing furniture. It is the largest number of museums in the world. In May 18th this year, the Palace Museum of the the Imperial Palace museum will open to the public in the Qing Dynasty, and a large number of valuable furniture will meet with the audience. This edition of the Imperial Palace Museum furniture expert Song Yongji wrote an introduction to the style and characteristics of Ming and Qing furniture.


The furniture of ancient China has been developing for thousands of years, and furniture of every era has different characteristics, which can reflect the technological level and aesthetic trend at that time. Since the furniture before the Ming Dynasty was mostly wooden and wooden, it was difficult to preserve it. We could only learn about the development of ancient furniture from cultural relics, frescoes, paintings and furniture in the tomb.

What we see today is mostly furniture in Ming and Qing Dynasties, first of all, thanks to the rulers' requirements for furniture materials in Ming Dynasty. In the 28 years of Ming Yongle three years (1405) to Xuan de eight years (1443), Zheng and he crossed the sea seven times. He brought Chinese made porcelain, silk, crops and other overseas to buy Spices, precious stones, precious timber and so on. These woods provide suitable materials for making high quality furniture.

Ming style furniture is a scientific, artistic and humanized furniture. It has epoch-making significance in the history of Chinese furniture development. After Ming style furniture, Qing style furniture appeared again. From the early Qing Dynasty to the middle Qing Dynasty, it was the transition period between Ming style furniture and Qing style furniture, that is, the period of Ming style and Qing style coexistence.

The rulers of the Manchu rulers clearly realized that Han culture must be mastered in order to rule the world. So when they were outside the gateway, they absorbed the essence of Chinese culture. From the furniture of Kangxi period, it basically extended the style of Ming Dynasty furniture. The original carpentry workshop is all in the same line of apprenticeship, which makes the Ming style furniture difficult to make major changes.

The distinction between Ming style furniture and Qing style furniture is not limited by age. Many furniture in the early Qing Dynasty belonged to Ming style furniture. The characteristics of Ming style furniture are simple, bright, simple, and smooth lines. And the Qing style furniture has the characteristics of majestic, gorgeous, multi-purpose materials, and complex decoration.

Take the seat as an example. In Ming style furniture, there are usually chairs, four chairs, South official hat chairs, lamp chairs, roses chairs, Fang Deng and embroidery pier. They are generally characterized by succinct, lively lines, smooth lines, and obvious side foot scores.

As shown in Figure 1, Huang Hua pear is like a straw wrapped circular chair, with a circular chair circle connected with three wood to form a "U" character. The corner between the handrail and goose neck is supported by a moire. The backboard is a piece of material. It is designed according to the natural curve of the back of the human body into a "S" shape. The relief on the back is covered with grass. The four sides of the seat are stored in a frame with a center mat. Under the surface is K (n) coupons. Four legs with side feet to score points, there is a step-by-step executive CH (NG). The chair circles, backrest, coupons, and so on, streamline lines and the overall shape, give people a simple and beautiful feeling.

The common furniture of Qing style furniture is armchair, backrest chair, all kinds of W stools. They are generally angular and complicated.

As shown in Figure 2, the red sandalwood embedded pastel Four Seasons flower and bird pictures porcelain chair, the backrest and the handrails are displayed in seven screens, and are lined with gall wood embedded pastels and Four Seasons flower and bird pictures. Take the high bump of the brain and roll it back into a book. A straight gill with a straight waist under the seat. In the middle of the dental plate, there is a relief hollow. The four legs are on the same plane, and the legs are Qi Ping. Square Leg inverted inverted horseshoe. This piece is a utensil in the period of Yong Zheng, and a Qing style furniture coexisting in Ming style and Qing style furniture.

By contrast, the difference between Ming style and Qing style furniture is mainly reflected in several aspects: first, the material. In Ming style furniture, yellow pear trees, iron pear trees and beech trees were mostly used, while other wood species were relatively few. Qing style furniture is mainly made of red sandalwood, mahogany, and a large number of inlaid furniture.

The second is the difference between form and type. Many styles of Ming style furniture have been lost in the Qing style furniture. For example, round corner cabinet is a common variety in Ming style furniture. It is a soft angle, and the side foot is clearly scored. The inside of the leg is in the outer circle, and the door is used for opening and closing. The upright cabinet is mainly made of square material, straight up and down without side feet. The top four corners of the cabinet adopt hard corners. The rounded cupboards made in Qing Dynasty were mostly works before Qianlong Dynasty, belonging to Ming furniture category.

In addition, many Qing style furniture blended the emperor's thoughts in the process of making. The emperor ordered to make some kind of utensils first, and then he made a sample of the palace building office of the Yangxin hall, then put forward a change of opinion after the emperor's imperial visit, and then made a small sample by the producer. After such a series of procedures, this article can be shaped.

The Qing style palace furniture is of excellent quality, using many kinds of materials and diversified techniques, and has the emperor's participation in the formulation, which has high collection value.

(the writer is deputy research librarian of the the Imperial Palace Museum.

(Editor: Zhang Guigui, Sun Hongli)