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!”Reader Question
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.
Classical Chinese Doors and Windows
This is the definitive text on Chinese architectural doors and windows written by Ma Wei Du, one of the most famous collectors in mainland China. Stunning photographs with explains tions on what motifs or stories are depicted.
If not found on Amazon, can also be found here on Abebooks
A Grammar of Chinese Lattice, Volume 1 of 2
An influential text; nearly 2500 patterns of lattice from ancient Chinese windows, including the history of development and classification of designs. Worth having in your collection. Also a classic which was first written in 1937.
Gems from the South: Traditional Crafts of Guangong Province
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. Usually Chinese publications will have images previously unseen in the average English book on Chinese Antiques.
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 the Abebooks website:
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. Lots of discussions on architecture of which screens are typically a part of.
The New Book of Chinese Lattice Designs:
This is a classic work, both in the West and in China, on the intricate geometric window grids is a rich source of patterns and ideas for wallpaper, stained glass, fabric work, embroidery, more. A bit of everything. A encyclopedia of patterns.
Beyond The Screen: Chinese Furniture of the 16th and 17th Centuries
Not solely screens but plenty of screens, carvings and discussions of whats what. A useful resource. Lots of great images. Plus By Wang Shixiang is one of the most distinguished scholars in terms of writings about Chinese Antiques.
Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs: A Comprehensive Handbook on Symbolism in Chinese Art through the Ages
This encyclopedia of Chinese symbolism and motifs is pretty darn comprehensive. From dragons to parrots – its likely to be in there. A think volume and in general good reference material to have around.
Huizhou Vernacular Architecture Exhibition (Chinese Edition)
While the English version of this book is almost impossible to find, the Chinese version nevertheless provides an amazing selection of photos from Huizhou area wood carvings.