cens logo

Woodcraft and Traditional Culture Combine in Taiwanese Furniture

Jan 23, 2014 | By Michelle Hsu

The emergence of the cultural/creative industry is not only infusing new life into Taiwan's furniture industry but is also encouraging local furniture designers to seek inspiration from the traditional wood workmanship, structure, and cultural background of furniture from earlier days.

Under the slogan “Without the traditional, there can be no modern; without the modern, the traditional becomes meaningless,” the National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute (NTCRI) held a woodcraft furniture exhibition, “Have a Seat,” last year. The purpose of the event was to present the features of Taiwanese wooden furniture and impress upon the public the inextricable relationship between humans and the seats people come into daily contact with.

“Have a Seat: An Exhibition for Wood Craft Furniture of Taiwan” took place at the NTCRI building from early June to late October 2013, introducing the Taiwanese furniture industry through its long history from the Ming and Qing dynasties to the present day. In its promotion of the concept of “green craftwork," the exhibit focused on “the chair” as its main theme, and supplemented it with other types of furniture.

The exhibition adopted the familiar and friendly greeting, “Have a seat!”, as its tag-line. Apart from conveying the functionality and cultural symbolism of the wooden seats on display, the organizers also wanted this warm and hospitable invitation to make visitors feel the intimate relationship between people and seats.

Visitors to the exhibition could explore the historical development of Taiwanese furniture, from the traditional to the modern, from the East to the West, from craftwork to design. They could learn how Taiwan adopted, adapted, and evolved Chinese, Japanese, and Western furniture styles and features over more than a century. The exhibition also highlighted how, through the interaction of different cultures over the years, Taiwan developed the interpretations and practices of its contemporary lifestyle aesthetics.

Furniture items on display at the exhibit were divided into three groups--“Classical & Traditional,” “Craftwork and Life,” and “East-West Crossing”--presenting the features of Taiwanese furniture in different historic periods.

1. Classical & Traditional

This folding Ming-style chair is a typical example of the structure and woodworking techniques of Ming-Dynasty furniture.This folding Ming-style chair is a typical example of the structure and woodworking techniques of Ming-Dynasty furniture.

Taiwanese furniture roughly dates back to the Ming dynasty, when immigrants from China brought their furniture-making techniques to the island. In the early years, Taiwan furniture mimicked Chinese styles. Ming Dynasty-style furniture was simple and elegant, while that of the Qing, which was influenced by Western styles, was meticulously crafted, luxurious, and extravagant. Both, though, featured traditional Chinese wood workmanship. Ming and Qing furniture inherited the traditions of the earlier Song Dynasty and created a glorious new era for Chinese furniture, giving it a place in world furniture history.

The “couple chairs” exhibit a mixture of Ming and Qing styles. The “couple chairs” exhibit a mixture of Ming and Qing styles.

During the last years of the Qing Dynasty and the early years of Japanese rule, Taiwanese furniture integrated orthodox Chinese culture and migratory agricultural culture, developing from them a new style that was a mixture of Chinese and foreign. The mixture illustrated the truest representation of the cultural life of the common people living in Taiwan at that time. During the emerging era of industrial production in the 19th century, Taiwanese furniture kept its vigorous cultural spirit of classical elegance.

The Western-derived culture that the Japanese introduced into Taiwan in the late 19th century brought a degree of awkwardness and dis-coordination to the Taiwanese furniture of the time, forming the “variant styles of Western furniture of the Japanese colonial period.” This marked a brand-new epoch in the history of Taiwanese furniture.

2. Craftwork and Life
This bamboo chairs plus baby crib reflects the lifestyle of wealthy Taiwanese people in earlier days.This bamboo chairs plus baby crib reflects the lifestyle of wealthy Taiwanese people in earlier days.

With the development of Taiwan's industrial technology in the post-war years, traditional woodcraft was gradually replaced by Western modernism. Looking back at the craft over this period—from the late Qing Dynasty to the post-war years—we see that "the chair," whether in the form of a straight-backed armless chair, bench, one-piece desk-chair, or sofa, has left sweet memories from every era.

 In the 1970s to the 1980s, international market demand caused a restructuring of Taiwanese industry toward the mass production of furniture for export. Deeply traditional woodworking techniques were coupled with the imitation of European and American styles, enabling the furniture industry to keep pace with the rapid development of the industrial era. This also helped Taiwan earn the title of “Furniture Kingdom” at that time.

This lounge chair is a masterpiece by designer Hong Da-ren.This lounge chair is a masterpiece by designer Hong Da-ren.

Since the 1980s, as the government began working to preserve traditional culture and folk art, a number of traditional furniture and wood carving masters have emerged and the younger generation has integrated practical application with industrial design. A constant flow of new-generation furniture creators are entering the industry, imbuing it with a new and powerful dynamism.

3. East-West Crossing
Over the past 20 years the industry has introduced furniture of a Western classical design, and architects and interior designers have also integrated Western classical furniture into their creations.

“Creative diversity” is a primary feature of contemporary Taiwanese furniture.“Creative diversity” is a primary feature of contemporary Taiwanese furniture.

The development of the the furniture-making craft today has taken a clear turn toward creative diversity. Craftsmen have begun studying design with an open and free mind, allowing traditional and modern, Eastern and Western cultures to clash, creating a spark of brilliance which endows Taiwanese furniture with the ability to meet the challenges of this new era.

Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Value
From the early agricultural society to the 21st century, through the wisdom crystallized over the centuries, “woodcraft furniture” has become an important representation of Taiwan's traditional craftsmanship. This exhibition presented the craft in the context of the great historical timeline and zoomed in to take a closer look at the sparks flying at each turning point along the way, providing a comprehensive interpretation of every stage, from the folding chairs of the Ming Dynasty to the variant chairs of the Japanese colonial period and the chairs adapted for practical daily use with primary school desks, or for use by nursing mothers.

The exhibit gave visitors an insight into the development of Taiwan's traditional woodcraft furniture, and an understanding of how the industry has moved from the era of manufacturing into a new stage of development as a creative industry. Visitors were shown the rich cultural heritage and contemporary value of Taiwan's traditional woodcraft furniture.

The exhibition unveiled the traditional and cultural heritage of Taiwanese furniture, not only making visitors sigh at the brilliant modern designs of today but also allowing them to trace the origins of those designs to the opulent and simple designs of traditional furniture through the long flow of history.

Exhibition Highlights

Koelnmesse (Beijing) Co., Ltd.

Announcement on Postponement of China International Hardware Show 2020 (CIHS 2020)

Jul 10, 2020

In view of the continuous spreading of COVID-19 all over the world and the latest epidemic prevention requirements of China and the government of Shanghai, in order to guarantee the health and safety of exhibitors, purchasers and professional visitors, China National Hardware Association and Koelnmesse have prudently decided to postpone China International Hardware Show 2020 (CIHS 2020) from Augu...

Automechanika Shanghai 2020 creates channels for cross-sector collaboration</h2>

Automechanika Shanghai 2020 creates channels for cross-sector collaboration

Jun 16, 2020

This year, Automechanika Shanghai continues to serve the entire automotive value chain by offering opportunities for information exchange, marketing, trade and education. Both vertically and horizontally, from OE, vehicle production to the aftermarket, it incorporates all elements of manufacturing, supply networks, services, new business models and information technology. Companies across the...

Messe Frankfurt (Shanghai) Co Ltd

CAPAS defers to 2021

Apr 20, 2020

Following the Chinese Government’s initiatives to prevent and control the COVID-19 outbreak, the organisers of the Chengdu International Trade Fair for Automotive Parts and Aftermarket Services (CAPAS) have announced the defer of the show’s 2020 edition. The fair, originally scheduled from 21 to 23 May 2020, will now be held from 20 to 22 May 2021. In China, the State Council issued an announc...

Industry In-Focus

SINOSTEEL Corporation: Rising price in Steel</h2>

SINOSTEEL Corporation: Rising price in Steel

Jun 05, 2020

Brazil’s new crown pneumonia epidemic has rapidly increased. Brazil’s Vale, the world’s largest iron ore producer, is facing an out-of-control impact. The market is worried that iron ore production and sales will be affected. new highs. Experts from Sinosteel (2002) evaluated that steel prices will rise steadily under the effect of rising costs, with a promising outlook. According to a legal p...

Apple Invests Millions in LED Plant in Taiwan</h2>

Apple Invests Millions in LED Plant in Taiwan

Jun 01, 2020

Apple is considering to invest over US$330 million in a factory in northern Taiwan to manufacture both LED and micro-LED displays for its iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and other new devices. Apple is teaming up on the new factory with Epistar, Taiwan's top LED producer, and Taiwanese LCD panel maker, AU Optronics. The plant will be located in the Longtan branch of the Hsinchu Science Park and Appl...

Taiwan Machinery Was Applauded in COVID-19</h2>

Taiwan Machinery Was Applauded in COVID-19

May 18, 2020

What the epidemic showed was the amazing flexibility of Taiwan's machine tool industry. Taiwan, which has allowed the semiconductor industry to specialize in the past, has finally realized that these machine tool industries with amazing strength are the "invisible champions" of Taiwan's economy. In early February, three companies -- Habor Precision, Tongtai Machine & Tool and Taiwan Takisawa -...

Supplier News

With professional technics and rigorous quality control, Kung Hsing gains high-reputation in the industry</h2>

With professional technics and rigorous quality control, Kung Hsing gains high-reputation in the industry

Jul 23, 2020

Kung Hsing Plastic Machinery Co., LTD., founded in 1972, is the brainchild of the company President Tsai Chin-lien’s over 48 years of experience in designing and producing extrusion machines. The firm stood by its belief to uphold integrity and offer the best quality and services, eventually becoming a leader in the extrusion machinery industry in Taiwan. Kung Hsing currently has two factories; t...




Jul 21, 2020

■ Tseng Lung-nan Intype Enterprise has built up 55 years of experience in producing extruders, though the firm is placing greater consideration on rapidly degrading of the global environment. In the past 20 years, Intype has become an active contributor to building up a global ecosystem, enabling them to reuse the products manufactured by their own extruders and avoid further waste. The firm t...


YFCM Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Lauded in the field of Modified Cars for its Flexibility </h2>

YFCM Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Lauded in the field of Modified Cars for its Flexibility

Jul 14, 2020

■Hsiao Yung-le Yifeng Technology Co., Ltd. specializes in the research and development of carbon fiber transmission shafts and the manufacture of carbon fiber related products.The carbon fiber material has the characteristics of lightweight, impact resistance, fatigue resistance, and corrosion, and chemical stability is quite high. The product type is increasing in the extensive range with an ...


Insiders' Views

Caption: Pictured from front row, third right, Changhua County Government Economic Affairs Department Director Liu Yu-ping, County Magistrate Wang Huei-mei, Secretary Chen Bo-tsun pose in front of the exhibition booth. (Photo provided by CHCIA)

Changhua County Government Shores up Biz-Matching to Global Buyers

Nov 18, 2019

■Yang Feng-Chun In a bid to assist manufacturers in Changhua County to expand their market reach overseas against severe competition in the globalized market, Changhua County Government has been an active player in pushing for a makeover and innovation of its local small and medium-sized enterprises. This is done in hopes of establishing stronger connection with international markets. An ex...

Paul Master offers high-quality chassis and engines parts for passenger cars, trucks, and industrial trucks. (Photo courtesy of Paul Master)

Paul Master Builds Reputation with Auto Chassis and Engine Parts

Nov 18, 2019

Founded in 1980, Paul Master Auto Parts Co. is headquartered in Taiwan, a professional manufacturer of chassis and engines parts for passenger cars, trucks, and industrial trucks including forklifts. General Manager Terry Liang said the company has its own professional design department, which provides customized products and specifications for global buyers, including automobile steering and...


Nan Hoang Traffic Instrument Co., Ltd.</h2><p class='subtitle'>Taiwan First brakes Technology Co., Ltd. </p>

Nan Hoang Traffic Instrument Co., Ltd.

Taiwan First brakes Technology Co., Ltd.

Sep 04, 2019

Nan Hoang Traffic Instrument Co., Ltd is one of the major manufacturers of automobile friction materials in Taiwan and globally. Chairman Austin Cheng has implemented the double-arrow strategy this year - own brand of “YangPo” is adopted to focus on global channels while the “NHC brand focuses on improving market shares in global markets, such as Europe, America, Asia, Australia, and the Middle E...

Industry Reports

K, the leading global plastic and rubber trade fair (Photo courtesy of Messe Düsseldorf/ctillmann)

K, The World's Leading Trade Fair for Plastic and Rubber Industry

Jul 24, 2020

2019 K Show, the leading global trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry, had been held in Düsseldorf on 16-23 October, 2019. There were 3,330 exhibitors from 63 nations proved impressively: plastics continue to be an innovative, indispensable material. But they also unanimously underscored the necessity of having operational circular economies along the complete material chain and to this...

Photo courtesy of CENS

Digital Healthcare & Technology at the Heart of Las Vegas CES 2020

Jul 14, 2020

■ Hubert Chih The number of healthcare exhibitors at the 2020 CES in Las Vegas increased significantly by 23% from 2019. According to the analysis and report by the CES organizer, digital healthcare and technology were the focus in the healthcare exhibition. In addition to the continued expansion of healthcare coverage, the reduction of healthcare costs, the improvement of effectiveness and th...

The Taiwan Hardware Show sees global buyer attendance. (Photo provided by Kaigo Co.)

Taiwan's Hand Tools Seeking Opportunities Amid Global Crisis

Jul 10, 2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe, most of the international hardware shows slated for this year has been moved to 2021. However, as Taiwan’s efforts combating the new virus has proven to be successful, the 2020 Taiwan Hardware Show (THS) will continue as scheduled, beginning on Oct. 13 and ending on the 15th at the Taichung International Exhibition Center, thus becoming the only sh...