THE CHINESE TABLE - October 2008
This October, Altfield Gallery is presenting a specialist exhibition that focuses on the table, which is perhaps China's most important contribution to the Asian furniture tradition. China is the only Asian country that left floor-level mat living, and adopted raised living centuries ago, and China therefore stands alone as the only country in Asia which has a fully developed range of furniture in its vocabulary, providing a rich assortment of forms for collectors and enthusiasts.

Tables have always played an important and varied role in the Chinese household, providing decorative surfaces for the practice of painting and calligraphy, the display of antiques and sculpture, for the eating of meals and the playing of games, and for the veneration of ancestors.

Excellent examples can still be found in today's antique market, exhibiting both regional styles as well as classic traditional proportions. In the collection being exhibited, graceful and highly decorated 18th century forms from Shanxi stand next to unadorned examples from Hebei which in style are identical to early Ming pieces. The contrast bears witness to the rich variety of styles found not just in tables but in all furniture from China's past. The following two examples illustrate this contrast well.