This enormous solid wood console (over two meters) which probably dates back to the Ming Dynasty, originally made its home in a temple in Shanxi province before being stumbled upon by us in the far off, dusty dirty corners of the antiques trade. Known in Chinese as a “Gong An,” or roughly a”temple table” the name alludes to its former use and one can’t help but imagine monks keeping quarters with this table. Modestly estimated to be approximately 300 years old, there are several clues to look that allude to its age starting with the wood below the hardware worn to the bone from endless contact over the years.
Note: All images are clickable.
A common feature on many genuine antiques is defacement from the cultural revolution or “Wénhuà Dà Gémìng,” a period of great political and social turmoil in China’s recent history. From roughly 1966 to 1976 Mao Zedong launched a massive campaign to destroy the “four olds”, namely old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits. During this time, Red Guards burned antique books, ransacked architecture, shattered old porcelain and destroyed or defaced carvings and even whole pieces of furniture. On the table below, the faces have been rudely hacked away.
The “chao tou” or wing-like swooping edges of the table are carved from a single large log with no visual seams or joints; a practice rarely used in contemporary times.
A second clue to its age and origin is the thin layer or coarse horse hair mesh, between the wood and the lacquer. Not quite refined enough to be considered fabric, this rough layer of hair allows the wood below some freedom to expand and contract according the climate and humidity without cracking the lacquer above.
And then there is the original finish, crackled beautifully through the endless passing of time.
Needless to say, this amazing piece of furniture will not be showing up on ebay anytime soon.