Zitan furniture is best known for its rich tone and beautifully intricate carved designs. The Zitan tree is part of the rosewood family and the trees are native to the tropical forests of southern China, Indochina and islands in the Indian Ocean.

39821046_1_l China, Qing Dynasty, carved Zitan chair
Altair Auctions

39821058_1_l China, 19th C., Zitan nesting table, with four individual tables of different heights
Altair Auctions

In ancient times in China, legend has it that the dark purple and red colour was associated with the Qing dynasty, and only the royal household could have the furniture in their homes.

39821050_1_l China, Qing Dynasty carved Zitan table with marble top
Altair Auctions

Another aspect which makes the wood so rare is that it grows incredibly slowly. The furniture first came to Europe during the Ming and Qing dynasties, when Europeans travelled to China and exported the furniture back to Europe.

39821044_1_l China, 19th C., carved Zitan cabinet with marble top
Altair Auctions

Last year, a rare pair of zitan and hongmu recessed leg altar tables from 18th/19th century sold at Bonhams for $2 714 500, highlighting the interest in this form of furniture.

39821052_1_l China, Qing Dynasty, Zitan table with marble top, the top in a flower shape
Altair Auctions

Altair's Asian Art and Antiques sale on 6th September has a fantastic selection of Zitan pieces. Search the catalogue here.

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