China antique furniture and a shopping day in Rome

Posted 2012-12-29

This summer I decided to spend my holidays back in my own country, Italy. I planned an islands hopping tour, spending some time in Sardinia, then in Sicily, finally touching base back in Rome.

Among the many interesting experiences I had, I found an amusing change of perspective in the Italians perception of China. Whereas until few years ago, China was the exotic, mysterious oriental country rich in history and culture, now was the economical miracle of globalization; the example to follow toward the future, the standard of novelty.

Antique Chinese Furniture Dealers

In Rome, while walking among the narrow streets and sunny squares, I had the pleasure to stumble upon a china antique furniture store: I didn’t even spent time looking at the windows, I just went straight inside.

The shop was quite, a peaceful atmosphere and the fragrance of woods all around. The shopkeeper was reading a book and didn’t seem to pay any attention to me. Rays of sunlight were hitting the furniture like spotlights in a movie set: I could see the patina, the age of wood and feel that particular sensation that only old objects with a past, a history can transmit.

Suddenly I felt like I was back in time, in ancient China; I felt the fascination of the mysterious Orient, I could smell incense and see tigers leaping out from the painted Tibetan chests: all the imaginary of a childhood was back again, just then in that particular place.

The shopkeeper seemed to react to my feelings: closing the book, she looked in my direction with an enigmatic smile and gently asked if I needed help. We started to chat about China, antique furniture and our respective businesses. Antique Chinese furniture dealers, she said, are like the keepers of a precious heritage, not only a material one but a spiritual one as well. We keep the childhood dream alive, bringing China’s past forward through the changes of our present times.

Antique Chinese Furniture Dealers

The shopkeeper point of view was amusing but actually did hit a string: during all these years in China in the antique furniture business, I always felt like all antique Chinese furniture dealers had a mission; something more complex, deeper than just selling objects.


I do believe that China and the antique furniture that represents its rich cultural heritage are not going to be devoured by the hunger of moneymakers and followers of the “development cult”. Instead, there will always be people out there willing to look back at the past, including their own: their childhood.


In their own way,antique Chinese furniture dealers all around the world are keeping the dream alive; the mystery and the exotic, the richness of a millenarian culture and its heritage, all delivered through little wooden wonders: chairs, tables, cupboards, buffets, chests, and so on.


With these thoughts in mind, I waved to the shopkeeper and left that corner of China in Rome. The glimpse of a red lacquered cabinet with its warm tones drove me toward the bright sunny day waiting for me just outside the store… and maybe, that shadow I felt behind me was the tiger climbing back on its Tibetan chest.


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