AS China’s new premier trots the globe, or at least India, it is an opportune moment to look at the other cultural phenomena that the Middle Kingdom has unleashed upon the world.
For many decades of the late 20th Century, it was tomb figures. Whether they were horses, camels or courtesans, these earthenware mouldings showed what China had to offer in three dimensions for viewers who couldn’t feel a connection with a ceramic bowl or a bronze altar accessory.
Wood was a latecomer to the market, although some collectors were way ahead of the pack, including Frank Lloyd Wright. In China’s hierarchy of materials, wood is by no means at the top of the metaphorical tree. What respect has been shown is less due to the effort of the craftsman than to the intervention of nature. With Chinese furniture, the first question will generally be: What sort of wood is it made