Altfield Gallery is pleased to present a collection of fine Chinese chairs in their May exhibition. China is the only East Asian country to have a fully developed range of furniture in its repertoire. The introduction of chair prototypes in the Tang dynasty (618-906), believed to come with the Buddhist faith from India, transformed the Chinese mat level culture to a high level of seating in China. This transformation resulted not only in the change of sitting habits, but also in the adaptation of the furniture around the chairs, architecture, lifestyle, social manner and even the style of clothes.

The phrase "The number one folding chair" is synonymous to "being the top person" In the Chinese language. Chairs in Chinese historical culture were a symbol of status. The type, form, size and placement of chairs symbolized the status of the persons sitting on them and were subject to a hierarchy of rules. The chairs crafted with refinement and details in the best quality woods, having back and armrests, and placed in the highest centre and focal position, were for the most important people in the room. The use of soft woven cane seats, rugs and cushions, decorative textile throws and furs were employed to provide a degree of comfort to the hard wooden surfaces, as China never developed soft upholstery. Since attention was placed on the carved form of the chairs themselves with their lack of upholstery, chairs in China have very pronounced sculptural lines, and as a result they are wonderful sculptural additions to any interior and work well with contemporary schemes. They have evolved to display forms ranging from restrained and minimalistic to highly ornate and elaborate.

Featured in this exhibition are many different types of 19th century chairs made for the homes of the 'Scholar Gentleman' class, which exhibit simplicity and elegance as well as the decorative carved details of the Ming style.