Furniture is a funny thing. It has to be instantly functional, yet maintain a certain form. These Qing Dynasty models on display at the Royal Ontario Museum fits that bill. What's fascinating is the craftsmanship - again, I can't believe I'm talking so much about how extraordinary the craftsmanship is, on Chinese products - but look at the joints. There is no glue used, no nails - the entire chair is just completely made of wood, precisely shaped so that the joints are perfectly joined together. Just amazing, how precise each piece has to be engineered.
The chairs, again, have this simplistic elegance that's just amazing for a 500 year old piece of furniture. The Chinese used to leave these chairs unpainted, all the better to let the natural beauty of the wood grain have its glory. I'm a bit sad now, because my trip back to China these year demonstrated the degree to which my compatriots love excess and kitsch. Inspiring pieces from the past, a reminder of the magnificence of old China.