Where can I find good books on Chinese wood carvings and architectural elements?

I get a ton of emails each week asking where to find more information on various antiques related topics. Recently there have been an unusual number of emails asking for information on wood carvings in particular. Here is one from this week:

“I have a wooden architectural carving that was a mantle for a gate. It is a single piece of wood 250cm in length with the animals of the Chinese Zodiac. Where can i find info on these? Thank you!”


While I wish I could reply to all of them, I must admit time does not always permit and some fall through the cracks. But no worries, for those who want to research on their own, there are a number of good books out there on this subjects. So I thought it might post some of the better books I have come across on this topic.

For ornate southern Chinese style carvings this not a bad book. Though it contains information on other items like porcelain and ivory, there are nevertheless a number of good examples of different Chaozhou style carvings. Since in the early days of antiques much of what went out of China, went through Hong Kong and the south a good portion of the carvings out there are likely from southern China.
This is a domestic Chinese softcover which is quite decent for the money. Its essentially compiled from Chinese publications. They have a similar publication on stone and brick carving as well.
traditional woodcarving from fujian Exquisite wood carving: traditional wood carving from Fujian – this book was put out by the University of Hong Kong and focuses on Fujian style carvings. Lots of panels, screens etc.  Its in both English and Chinese and quite good. The only problem is I have never seen it sold anywhere else outside of the University of Hong Kong. However it seems they do sell it via their website: http://www.hkumag.hku.hk/store_others.html
You can’t not look at architecture when considering the role of wood carvings in China. While this is not a book specifically focused on wood carvings it is a good book to get a sense of how and where carvings where integrated into home and other structures.
This encyclopedia of Chinese symbolism and motifs is pretty darn comprehensive. From dragons to parrots – its likely to be in there.

Missing any? Let me know…

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1 Comment

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