Generally there are six primary recognized schools of Chinese furniture development:
Lets talk about the second of these: Cantonese (or Guangdong) Style Furniture
guǎng shì jiājù
Mainly hardwoods (硬木) such as Rosewood/Huali (花梨木), Zitan ( 紫檀) , Suanzhi (酸枝木), Chicken wing wood (雞翅木), Iron Wood (铁力木) Kundian (昆典木) and Huanghuali 黄花梨.
Starting in the mid-Ming dynasty and continuing on into the Qing dynasty, Western missionaries began entering China via the Portuguese colony of Macau and then onward into the mainland via the major port city of Guangzhou, bringing with them European culture, science and religion. Guangdong (and particularly Guangzhou) was at the center of these new influences due to its geographic location.
Chinese and Western trade flourished during this time, and as the economy grew, Qing rulers pursued a form of excessive, extravagant luxury which Ming style could simply not satisfy. During the same period, and due to it’s close proximity to southeast Asia, large numbers of exotic timbers were imported from Southeast Asia via Guangzhou. This combined with Guangzhou being at the forefront of these new foreign influences, meant it was only a matter of time and by the mid-Qing dynasty, Guangdong style had supplanted Ming style.
Therefore one can say Qing style furniture is heavily influenced by Guangdong style. More Opulent than Ming Style and drawing from Baroque , Rococo and other western influences, Guangdong style is about conveying the idea of luxury. Taking advantage of easier access to regional hardwoods, heavy sturdy materials are the norm, and carpenters often preferred to try to construct from a single piece of wood.
Unlike other regions, mixing and matching of different woods is not typically a feature in Cantonese furniture. Ornate decoration and embellishment are common, ranging from large areas of finely carved and carefully sanded surfaces to inlays of marble, jade, glass or enamel. Carved/decorated feet and aprons are common. Wood is usually left exposed as opposed to lacquered.
(Note that Lingnan culture refers to the regions of Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan and encompasses Cantonese culture , Chaozhou culture and Hakka culture and this term may be used in some instances to describe Cantonese culture.)
Canton furniture was also made for export starting in the late 18th century.
Related Books on this subject:
Previous: Part 1: Suzhou style
Next Up: Part 3: Beijing (Peking) style.