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China Bouquet – Carve the Wood How It Would

2018-07-31 | | Art China

Some termites crawl out of their cave. Following a hint of woody fragrance, they head out for their meal of the day. In the lush mountain forest of Hainan, cut-down timbers of wood are scattered all over the ground. Locals aren't in a hurry to ship them out though—After a few years, the termites have eaten their fill and changing seasons have done their job of humidification, then the color, pattern and oil of the timber will become more distinctive. Also, wood treated this way would not break or deform as easily.

Huanghuali wood (Dalbergia odorifera) is a common material for traditional Chinese furniture. Its patterns are like floating clouds and flowing water, in a color that's neither too loud nor too flat. It is good to make this kind of wood into a nice small object, a table, a chair or stationery in your study. Men of letters admire the beauty of Huanghuali wood as it is “delicate in primitive simplicity, and has most intense emotions from stoic lines".

At the same time, traditional Chinese furniture is also big on ebony (Diospyros ebenum), which combines the elegance of wood and the aura of stone. In Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties, furniture designers would carve ebony in an otherworldly, antiquity concept. Red sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinus) is solid and firm, furniture made of which looks sedate and majestic. The pattern of ciricote (Cordia dodecandra) looks like an ink drop in water that diffuses wherever ripples take it. Other common materials for furniture include xichi wood (Wenge), suanzhi wood (Dalbergia cochinchinensis), tieli wood (Mesua ferrea), beech, cottonwood and camphorwood.

In the hands of the most capable artists, timbers of different nature are charming in their own unique ways. This is why we say, "Carve the wood how it would". Of good quality, vivid colors and explicit patterns, these woods that grew in nature gave birth to pieces of furniture that are "beautiful on the outside, useful on the inside". For centuries, they embody how Chinese understand the beauty of nature and life. Wood is harvested from the forest, and accomplished in furniture. It is the most magnificent vision contained in an austere object, a world of possibilities hidden under some minimalist appearance. There are not enough years or vicissitudes in this world to cover their charm, damage their beauty.

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