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The extravagance of simplicity

A seasoned craftsman's 'fever' for classical furniture produces pieces of timeless elegance, Lin Qi reports.

By Lin Qi | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-04-09 07:36
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Classical furniture displayed at Inheriting the Tradition With Craftsmanship, an exhibition hailing Wu's commitment to classical furniture at the National Museum of China. [Photo by NATIONAL MUSEUM OF CHINA TO CHINA DAILY]

"Ultimately, a furniture maker should be able to create pieces with impeccable proportions that soothe the mind and soul of those who use them."

Wu is committed to making furniture that not only stands the test of time but also passes on the culture of classical furniture to the younger generation.

At the exhibition at the National Museum of China, he has re-created spaces, in which full-size sets of furniture are grouped to conjure up a variety of moods: the zhongtang (middle hall), where desks and chairs are placed symmetrically to suggest dignity and the significance of etiquette; furniture for a scholar's study that illustrates the aesthetics of intellectuals; and furniture for a bedroom that soothes both body and heart.

"Every piece on show has soul and vitality, and walking among them allows one to navigate the width and scope of Chinese furniture, and the culture it embodies," Wu says.

Zhao Danping, the exhibition's curator, says that the pieces embody the concepts ancient Chinese had about themselves and the spaces in which they were living — the philosophy of the perfect lifestyle — which is a significant part of the Chinese cultural tradition.

"It gives a full expression of the spirit of craftsmanship," Zhao says. "And at the same time, the belief in dao fa ziran, that is, to learn from the rules of nature, and set them as the guidelines of human behavior," Zhao says.

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