Basic guide to recognizing Tibetan antique furniture – Part 1

new_local_tibetan_piece Basic guide to recognizing Tibetan antique furniture - Part 1

Tibetan” style furniture is a phrase used loosely, and frequently items made just yesterday, are placed side by side with items 50 or 80 years old. Of course, all are claimed to be real “Tibetan Furniture.” So when it comes to so called Tibetan” items, its important to know just what it is that you are actually purchasing and (hopefully) later on selling to your customers. So, without further ado, we will start off a series of posts to help you better understand and demonstrate the differences in the low end, the fake and even the good stuff!

Note the difference in the highly commercial paintings done by local Chinese workers (bottom left and right) as opposed to the subtle designs produced while working under the guidance of Gansu or Tibetan masters (top right).

Part 1) Locally produced “Sudo-Tibetan Style:”

An example of what we can be called a newly-made, locally-produced Tibetan style sideboard.

new_local_tibetan_piece Basic guide to recognizing Tibetan antique furniture - Part 1
These pieces are modern copies of Tibetan Antiques

Characterized by very thick, raised-paintings in bright, primary colors, these pieces are often constructed from newish pine, occasionally southern elm or any other number of inexpensive softwoods. Finishing is relatively simple, with minimal attention to finer details. “Rough” is a good word to describe these pieces.

This part of the industry is dominated by sellers from Gansu (and occasionally Tibet) who will employ local workers (local to the region they are currently producing as opposed to locally in Tibet). These same sellers will also produce Tibetan style furniture for restaurants and hotels and may even take on projects to to paint decorative archways and entryways of temples, pavilions or any other traditional style architecture.


Tibetan-Furniture-by-Chris-Buckely Basic guide to recognizing Tibetan antique furniture - Part 1

Tibetan Furniture: Identifying, appreciating, collecting

This comprehensive book, the first on the subject, will be indispensable to the growing number of collectors of antique tibetan furniture beautifully illustrated with hundreds of beautiful pieces, mostly from the 17th – 19th centuries, it is however far more than a simple catalogue it will help readers to identify the main types of tibetan furniture; to appreciate their origin and uses; and to identify and understand the most common designs


Its important to point out that in reality, there is little about these (if anything) which could be considered “Tibetan” (other then the bright color scheme). A favorite with low-cost/high volume wholesalers & trading companies, they are usually “cranked-out” in high volume.

new_tibetan_other_examples Basic guide to recognizing Tibetan antique furniture - Part 1
Inexpensive and colorful copies of vaguely Tibetan style furniture

On the flip side, these pieces are inexpensive, contemporary, and make good accent pieces. Contemporary designs such as the magazine rack (in the examples shown above) make these easy to integrate into the home.

T3-Copy-1024x684 Basic guide to recognizing Tibetan antique furniture - Part 1
An 14th or 15th century Tibetan painted leather covered wooden dragon chest (previously published in the book Tibetan Furniture)
15th-century-Painted-Tibetan-Dragon-Chest-751x1024 Basic guide to recognizing Tibetan antique furniture - Part 1
A page from the book Tibetan Furniture in which it discusses the defining characteristics of the chest above.

Note the subtle paintings, the clear signs of age and wear and tear on this genuine antique as opposed to the reproductions pictured above.

The stool in the samples shown here was listed as a “RARE Tibetan wood painted chair” from a seller on ebay. The magazine rack was from overstock.com.


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