In the Chinese Cosmological Sequence of five elements, wood Comes only after gold, taking Second place and well ahead of earth, which Sits last
auspicious Chinese fu dogs in their designs. When the Spanish came, and Filipino natives took to using—and making—furniture for their colonisers, fu dogs were stylised as claws and balls and lion’s face. Antique dealers who didn’t know better would refer to these modifications as “dinemonyo,” so named because of the evil face and claw on its legs.
Exceptional craftsmanship aside, there may be more reason for collecting rare and hard wood pieces.
The functional: Fine hard wood, especially those with fragrance, may deter the most determined of beetles, wasps, ants, and termites, which make them last through the ages.
The symbolic: They may have been chosen by those who wanted to present a sense of authority and the grandiose, preferred by those who lived through ages of turbulence, and survived.
For wood work, not only fine workmanship or age, but the symbolic meaning of much of the motifs add special meaning to the beholder’s eyes. Such was the case when a carved dragon symbolised imperial power, a tiger—the bravery of a general; books and volumes—the stature of a scholar; stylised clouds—peace and tranquility; the peony—love and affection; a crane— longevity; and the phoenix—beauty of the fair sex; and, a bat for prosperity.
And again, there is the blend of practicality and luxury: prices of original pieces have steadily increased, making these exquisite creations a wise investment for the wealthy and discriminating.