Meticulous attention to selection of materials is a most salient feature of Mingstyle furniture. Pieces that have survived to our time are all produced with quality hard timber. Yellow rosewood was always the first choice. Of the 160 pieces in the Collection of the Best Ming-Style Furniture compiled in the 1980s by a group of Chinese mainland and Hong Kong scholars, more than 100 are made of yellow rosewood reputed for its beautiful color and exquisite grain. Ming-style furniture pieces of red sandalwood are favored for a primitive beauty, and those of other hard timbers, for their exquisite veins. Though relatively inexpensive, those of ferrous mesua and beech are equally favored.
A beauty of simplicity in structure makes Ming-style furniture eternally enchanting. This can be attributed to an artistic taste in favor of urbanity and simplicity prevalent not only among the intelligentsia but also among members of the imperial family and nobles – descendants of soldiers who resented things garish and excessively elaborate. Improved carpentry tools were also responsible, with which carpenters were able to do the details to the best of their customers’ satisfaction.
Not a single metal nail is used on any piece of Ming-style furniture. In producing a piece of Ming-style furniture, only occasionally does the carpenter use glue to supplement the skill of fixing the mortises and tenons that originated from building of wooden architectural structures.
There are several reasons for the furniture in the Ming Dynasty to make such achievements: firstly, the furniture of Ming Dynasty inherited the good tradition of furniture manufacturing of Song Dynasty. Secondly, the society in the Ming Dynasty was quite stable, so the flourishing economy and foundation of towns and cities posed higher demand to the furniture and higher requirements to the craftwork level. Meanwhile, with the abolishment of the ban on maritime trade, a large amount of rosewood, chicken-wing wood, iron wood, Scented Wood and other solid wood was imported from aboard, so that it was possible for the craftsman to create the fine and solid furniture better than that of the previous dynasties.