The house furniture were placed in a relatively fixed way during the Ming-Qing period. The main hall, sitting room, bedrooms and study in a house are typically fitted with pairs of furniture pieces placed in symmetrical order. In a chamber, the long table or bed that faces the door is always the center of the furnishing. The chamber normally has one long table and two chairs, or four chairs if there are two tables. The wardrobes, bookcases and other furniture pieces are also placed in symmetrical order, sometimes with calligraphic works and antiques placed in between for added taste.
The main decoration in the main hall, or the south-facing hall, is a large painting hung on the wall facing the door. Flanking the painting is a pair of scrolls that form an antithetical couplet. Below the painting there is a long table on which decorative porcelain vessels are placed. A square table for eight people is placed in front of the long table – “eight” being a lucky number that originates from the Taoist legend about the Eight Immortals. At either side of the table there is a large wooden armchair – the so-called “imperial teacher’s chair”. A square or round table is often placed beside the east or west wall for display of flowers and arts and crafts articles.
The drawing room is, in fact, an extension of the main hall, separated from the main hall by a solid wall or a wall-like screen decorated with carvings, where guests and friends are received. In addition to tables and chairs, it features an exquisitely designed case on which antiques are displayed. The study can either be an extension of the main hall or an independent chamber. Furniture pieces found there include bookshelves, antique cases, a desk, a table and a few chairs.
Heated earthen beds have been popular in north China where it is cold in winter, and people in the south prefer to sleep on wooden beds. In most cases, a wooden bed is fitted with a frame for a mosquito net. An elaborately decorated bed, however, may look like a small chamber in itself. Ancient Chinese men like to wear long hair, hence those dressing table found in virtually all bedrooms. The habit may be attributed to this Confucian motto on filial duties: “No damage must be done to your body and hair because they are given to you by your parents.” Elaborating, we may safely say that Ming-style furniture was a part of the culture characteristic of China’s patriarchal society of feudalism. It resulted from an economic prosperity the country was able to enjoy in the late period of China’s feudal society, and ceased to develop as feudalism kept declining.