Why have I never heard of zitan
if it's indeed so precious?
huanghuali or hongmu, zitan pieces
have never been sold in significant numbers in the international
furniture market, precisely because they are so rare and
valuable. There is an extremely limited supply of zitan
in the world, and most of the older pieces reside in museums
in China and a few other countries, such as Great Britain.
Very few westerners learned anything about zitan
before its depletion in China in the late 18th and early
19th centuries. In traditional Chinese culture zitan
was a rare symbol of wealth, status and sophistication and,
therefore, even today is considered unattainable even by
people of Chinese descent around the world who have the
means to own it. Furthermore, because only imperial families
and exceptional citizens were allowed to own and use zitan
furniture, few pieces were handed down and survived to the
present day. According to Classic Chinese Furniture Ming
and Early Qing Dynasties, by Wang ShiXiang, the most authoritative
figure in the studies of Classical Chinese Furniture, "from
the very ancient times the Chinese have considered zitan
the most precious wood . . . Occasionally we find large
pieces of zitan wood furniture . . . because of the
scarcity of large zitan trees, [these pieces] are
treated as exceptional treasures."
What makes zitan furniture
and other similar precious hardwood furniture have always
been favorites among furniture connoisseurs, dealers and
collectors. Because zitan is so rare, large contemporary
furniture made of zitan are almost never seen in
today's market. Examples of antique furniture made of zitan
and huanghuali sold at auction provide a glimpse
of the value these pieces hold. For example, in 1999 a zitan
canopy bed dated early 18th century was estimated to be
worth $300,000 to $400,000 at Sotheby's Asia furniture auction
week. A contemporary reproduction of a zitan painting
table, produced in 1999, was recently sold at a Sotheby's
auction in Beijing for $55,000. This zitan painting
table was crafted by the same artisan we often retain for
There are many kinds of dark hardwood
used in Chinese furniture, how can I tell them apart?
is true that many Classical Chinese pieces appear to be
quite dark, and some lacquered pieces were purposely made
to look like zitan. We advise all buyers to check
the authenticity of any pieces they consider, and specifically
identify the source and origin of the zitan. The
next question in this series deals with assessing the zitan
through its color. One simple test, however, is based
on the fact that zitan is so dense that it sinks
in water. You will likely not be able to actually immerse
a piece you are considering in water, but in assessing it
consider the fact that the piece should be extremely heavy
for its size, almost unbelievably so. Additionally, zitan
has a very fine grain that is said to resemble ox hair.
At Zitantique, we specialize in premium quality zitan,
and for each piece of zitan furniture, we will furnish
an authentication certificate provided by an independent
third party expert with decades of experience authenticating
precious hardwoods. In addition, at your request, we shall
provide a small piece of wood taken from the same log as
your furniture piece for you to perform the water test if
you so desire.
Why does my zitan piece appear to be
dark reddish purple?
unique aspect of zitan is that the oxygenation process
does not stop at the point when the furniture is made. Zitan
is dark reddish purple soon after it is cut and as time
goes on, it becomes darker. It is as if the wood comes alive
under the touch of human hands - it gets smoother and more
lustrous as the furniture ages, and eventually it becomes
complete black, the grains invisible. Like fine wine, zitan
gets better with age.
Why is your zitan better than
other sources such as those from Vietnam?
is not only a quality issue but also a philosophical issue.
Having traveled and spent significant time in Asia, Europe,
Africa and North America, the founders of Zitantique share
the values of many of the world's citizens. We only have
one earth and we will do what we can to preserve it and
its resources. Having said that, being able to transform
zitan into objects of timeless beauty and having
only limited resources do not necessarily conflict. Under
a special certification program that benefits forestry conservation
programs in Africa, Zitantique's partner company has secured
the last known quality source of zitan timber from
an island country off the coast of East Africa. Subsequent
to this, the government imposed a moratorium on the harvesting
and export of zitan to allow the resource to renew
and recover. Due to the particularly favorable conditions
in which this timber has grown, the zitan in our
care is exceptionally durable, and many of our logs are
over 30 centimeters in diameter, which is extremely unusual.
It typically takes a zitan tree 300 years to grow to this
diameter. We have not seen other sources of zitan
of this quality anywhere in the world.
of the limited supply of zitan available on the market
today is from Southeast Asia, primarily Vietnam. Unfortunately,
these trees were cut down while they were still very young,
only 10 to 20 centimeters in diameter, resulting in zitan
wood that is less durable and cannot be made into large
pieces using traditional Chinese techniques. Although pieces
made from this wood command premium prices in the markets
of Taiwan and Hong Kong, they are of inferior quality. In
addition to using immature wood, other manufacturers often
do not properly prepare the wood for manufacture by letting
it cure in a variety of environmental conditions. Many pieces
made from immature wood crack soon after manufacture or
sale. We are fortunate to be able to provide collectors
and connoisseurs this special source of premium zitan
timber from East Africa, treated according to time-tested
techniques and hand crafted into beautiful furniture that
your family will enjoy for generations.
Can you make zitan veneer?
it is possible to make a zitan veneer, it would be
a violation of the tradition and aesthetics of Chinese joinery
and we would never do it. Three qualities underlying Classical
Chinese furniture are simplicity, purity and wholeness.
Regardless the type of wood chosen or the final price of
the piece you select from us, you will find that everything
we sell honors those principles. We make only solid wood
furniture, no veneers or inlays, and every joint and join
is clearly visible on the surface, just as Chinese furniture
has been made for centuries. Experts often say that Chinese
Classical furniture reveals the ability, or lack of ability,
of cabinetmakers to a pitiless degree, because the very
skeleton of a piece, its structure and joints, can be seen
clearly on the surface of the wood. Some might say it is
a waste of material, but we see it as an essential purity
that imbues our products with lasting durability and quality.
We would rather make fewer pieces with the resources we
have and feel intense pride in offerings. We trust you too
will see the value in owning something so pure, so intensely
How Long does it take from order
order to delivery, the process is usually 90 to 120 days,
depending on the material chosen and the complexity of the
piece. Zitan is the most time-consuming material,
because it requires a special oxygenation and stabilization
process prior to being made into furniture. As explained
in the zitan
page, zitan is highly susceptible to changes in temperature
and humidity, and thus requires special preparation. Upon
receipt of your order, we typically inquire about the final
destination of the piece to determine the proper treatment
it should receive to appear at its best for generations
to come. This process will help preserve the furniture allowing
to last for hundreds of years if properly cared for. Another
variable in the manufacturing time is the amount of design
detail specified. From the beginning to end, your furniture
will receive unstinting dedication, handled only by the
most skilled artisans alive today in China, and hand crafted
to perfection. For something so ever lasting and so unique,
we trust that you would find the wait is well worth your
What is the status of my order?
prides itself for providing customer satisfaction every
step of the way. We will keep you informed of the progress
of your chosen piece through emails or personal phone calls,
whichever you prefer. Digital photos will be provided to
you at your request, so that you know where your ordered
piece is at in terms of the various stage and how it is
Do you also produce small pieces?
zitan has often known as the jewel wood for making
small objects because of its scarcity, we encourage those
who have not used zitan furniture to start with a
small object. In fact we commission some of the most talented
carving artists alive today in China to produce small carved
objects for customers. The same artists have all worked
on projects for the museums of China, many have won awards
for the objects they have carved.
I don't see anything I like,
how do I place a special order?
welcome special orders. In fact, in a sense every order
is a special order because it is made only to order and
customized for each customer. The items we display in our
catalog are intended only to show a range of examples of
the kinds of furniture and other pieces we can provide.
Following the tradition of fine Chinese Classical furniture,
we produce everything by hand from handpicked logs. Simply
fill out an online
order form specifying your requirements, fax
your desired style and design and we will be happy to assist
you need assistance with any of your design specifications,
we'd be happy to refer you to one of our seasoned portfolio
designers either based in United States or Beijing, China
and work with you to come up with a truly unique piece.
Why do so many things come in sets of
two or three?
short answer is a set of Chinese principles known as FengShui.
Many who studied Asian culture and arts will find that things
in Asian households appear in pair, or sometimes a set of
three. This is because the Chinese believe that to have
good chi, the essential element of good FengShui,
one must induce harmony and good fortune by properly arranging
things, mostly in a symmetrical manner. In the case of furniture,
harmony results from items appearing in pairs, perhaps accompanied
by an accent piece. Thus it is common for Ming and Qing
style furniture, especially chairs, to come in pairs, often
coupled with a side table to be used to hold tea. Though
we often offer furniture in sets to conform with this practice,
we are happy to sell individual pieces.
I'm a consumer, How do I obtain pricing?
fill out an online
order form, email
us or call us at 510-204-9461 and we will happy
to assist you. If using our form or email, please let us
know how you would like us to contact you.
How do I obtain whole sale pricing?
offer wholesale pricing for resellers and others in the
design and furniture trades purchasing from us in quantity
only. We welcome the opportunity to work with interior designers,
dealers and resellers. Please call us at 510-204-9461 or
drop us an email
and include your company name, title and the nature of your