How to identify Antique Chinese Furniture using the 6 main schools. Part 4: Shanxi (Jin) Style.

shanxi-ming-dynasty-black-lacquer-incense-stand-made-of-elm-1170x580 How to identify Antique Chinese Furniture using the 6 main schools. Part 4: Shanxi (Jin) Style.

Generally there are six primary recognized schools of Chinese furniture development:

1) Suzhou

4) Shanxi

2) Guangdong

5) Shanghai

3) Beijing

6) Ningbo

Lets talk about the fourth of these: Shanxi (Jin) Style Furniture.

Shanxi Style

Jin (晋) refers to early Shanxi culture (starting in the early Paleolithic period up to the early Western Zhou Dynasty) and in essence refers to Shanxi traditional furniture (山西传统家具). With its roots tracing back to the Wei and Jin Dynasties and becoming mature in the Song and Yuan dynasties,  Jin style furniture reached its peak during the Ming Dynasty. It remained constant in style up until the late Qing dynasty.

Chinese:

Shanxi Furniture

Chinese:

晋式家具
jìn shì jiājù Jin

Shanxi-province-location-on-map-in-china How to identify Antique Chinese Furniture using the 6 main schools. Part 4: Shanxi (Jin) Style.
Shanxi province, China

Popular Woods:

Native wood species such as Cypress/Cedar (白木), old Elm (老榆木), Walnut (核桃木), Pine (松木), Poplar (杨木), Locust (槐木), Willow (柳木) and Toon Wood/xiangchun mù (香椿木).

A-late-Jin-or-early-Ming-dynasty-coffer-in-locust-wood-from-shanxi-994x1024 How to identify Antique Chinese Furniture using the 6 main schools. Part 4: Shanxi (Jin) Style.
A late Yuan or early Ming dynasty coffer in locust wood from Shanxi

Strong, thicker, heavier lines and ancient, archaic influences pervade, with filial piety and local life and culture being common themes. 

Rich Shanxi merchants were often bankers and money lenders with large courtyard homes, which needed lots of furniture. And while some imported hardwoods were brought to Shanxi from Beijing, logistics costs were high due to its isolated geographic location. Consequently, native wood species were used as substitutes. Walnut was seen as a substitute for Huali. Willow was substituted for Camphor. Elm was used in place of Beech (Jumu/Southern Elm). Production standards at the time, were also very high which is one reason Shanxi style furniture has lasted so long.


C.-L.-Ma-Collection-Traditional-Chinese-Furniture-from-the-Greater-Shanxi-Region-835x1024 How to identify Antique Chinese Furniture using the 6 main schools. Part 4: Shanxi (Jin) Style.

C. L. Ma Collection: Traditional Chinese Furniture from the Greater Shanxi Region

This is a magnificently illustrated catalog of one of the most important collections of antique Chinese furniture in the world. A beautiful book depicting rare and unique never before seen pieces from the greater Shanxi region

(Many of the images below are from this book)

Available here on Amazon or on Abebooks


Shanxi style furniture, tends to place an emphasis on local techniques. Strong, thicker, heavier lines and ancient, archaic influences pervade with filial piety and local life and culture being common themes.  Because the woods were cheaper due to being sourced locally, craftsmen were able to experiment a bit more and be more creative, which brings a certain rich diversity to this style of furniture. Similarities to architectural elements are much more common in this style of furniture as well. Shanxi style furniture, also includes lacquered furniture which employed changing styles of lacquering during each dynasty, typically trunks or large cabinets. It can be confidently stated that Shanxi furniture is very unique.

Late-Jin-Early-Ming-dynasty-elm-wood-alter-table-from-shanxi-1024x1024 How to identify Antique Chinese Furniture using the 6 main schools. Part 4: Shanxi (Jin) Style.
Late Jin-Early Ming dynasty elm wood alter table from Shanxi

Its important to note that a “style” does not always correspond to dating – particularly in the case of older styles which may have been continued to be produced throughout later periods.

shanxi-qing-dynasty-gold-painted-miaojin-cabinet-994x1024 How to identify Antique Chinese Furniture using the 6 main schools. Part 4: Shanxi (Jin) Style.
A Shanxi Qing dynasty gold painted miaojin cabinet

Next: Part 5: Shanghai style.

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