Buying classical antiques – a look at whats in the Beijing antique markets at this moment

The  Chinese new year has passed and the weather is warming! The peasants sellers from the countryside are gradually returning and bringing with them, the years new shipments of Chinese classical and provincial antiques collected from their home towns and villages.  Some interesting things!

chinese opera paintings on antique doors

As always though, the field narrows and there are general trends to be aware of this year:

  • Each year it gets harder and harder to find good pieces. If you didn’t buy what you wanted last year, its probably gone this year.
  • Prices are rising as supply diminishes and mainland Chinese begin to purchase and appreciate their own culture as well.
  • Its difficult to find original paintings anymore. Most have been repainted or retouched.
  • As always, the older, more original, rarer or better quality wood, the more expensive it is!

Here are some of the items for sale which catch my eye in the antique markets at the particular moment.  For a look at the complete collection of click here to enter our image gallery (1) or here to enter the 2nd gallery.


This cedar wood painting table is a nice find. Once used for calligraphy and scroll painting, today it will likely become a console in someones home.

closeup - a cedar nanmu painting table SDC16925

Though technically a softwood, its is often treated as a hardwood and as the Chinese have peaked their interest in cedar wood (known in Chinese as nan mu 楠木) prices have risen significantly. Cedar has become one of the more valued of the varies woods used in Chinese furniture.

Embossed leather trunks were cheaper and easier to find ten years ago. Now finding ones in good condition are difficult, particularly one like this. Most are damaged to the point where repair is not worth it. Good luck finding another like this!

leather wedding trunk

This particular wedding trunk from Shanghai would originally have been a brighter color. Over the years exposure to sunlight and the elements have caused the lacquer to gradually turn a deep burgundy color. The dragons, butterflies and double happiness symbols give clues as to its use as a dowry gift to a newly wed couple.

A large lacquered chinese wedding cabinet

Often referred to by foreigners as a “wedding cabinets,” the symbolism and black colors on this early to mid Qing dynasty armoire from Pingyao tell us otherwise. Rare to find ones of this age and in this condition.

A shanxi push light lacquered cabinet

Shanxi, Pingyao, the last walled city in China has its own unique history concerning lacquer, going back well over 1200 years to the tang dynasty. Painstaking and time consuming lacquering techniques such as “push-light lacquer (推光漆器) and “Da Qi (大漆) produce the superior smooth glossy finishes and bright colors that are often seen on Shanxi furniture.

A ming dynasty painting table SDC17206

Several hundred years have taken its toll on this table and its feet are long gone. Nevertheless this is a rare find for the antique connoisseur.

A ming dynasty painting table SDC17206

Its rare to find any easily available furniture in China these days that dates back to the Ming Dynasty, yet this table is likely to be just that; a late Ming dynasty console table.

Chinese Gansu painted work table SDC17315

Known in Chinese as a “work table” (工桌) a vendor would have stood behind or beside it. They are often found in places like Gansu and Mongolia. The colors and motifs on this one point less to Mongolia and more to Gansu.

antique Chinese Gansu painted work table SDC17315

Normally constructed from pine or poplar wood, the painting on this table is original and has not been painted recently. However, age is another issue and would require closer inspection to determine.

For a look at the complete collection of click here to enter our first gallery or here to enter the 2nd gallery.



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2 Comment

  1. Nicole says:

    antiques are very essential things to posses so I choose the one I think will make it keep it.

  2. carol says:

    All the antiques in you photos was beautiful!It has a nice design.Thanks for sharing it.

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