A trio of Rosewood

trio of chairs

A  furntiture trio, elegant, delicately carved, sombre.

For sitting in calmly, greeting visitors, writing poetry whilst sipping tea made from spring water and mountain tea leaves from Fujian. Framed by 书画 shuhua,  painting and calligraphy. A restrained statement, an acknowledgment of the place of beauty.


This post would have ended there. It started like this: Saturday morning, the new morning newspaper is the WordPress Photo Challenge, find out about the world by seeing the globe through the eyes of bloggers. Amdist the traffic of the mind, relaxation, eating out, the traffic of the world, more relaxation and endless teacups, sorting through the external photos for triage. Well, trio’s actually. But if triage it is to be, then triage it is : the determining of which operation to undertake first, depending on the severity of the patient’s illness.

The patient, in this case, turned out to be this planet we call home. 

As it happened, it turned out I was no longer in the Song dynastry, sitting on delicately carved chairs of rosewood, drinking medicinal wine and writing poetry – I was in the 21st century, and I did what all good 21st century citizens should do when they first wake up – I checked my mail.

It’s then that I found out about the deaths of two good men, Cambodians, who were trying to enforce the law. Enforce the law that said we should protect our natural forests, and not cut down ancient trees for export. They were environmental protectors, you see, a forest ranger and a regular policemen But as it happened, one bright morning in a cambodian forest, two men didnt wake up. They’d been caught in between a growing battle between the police and the military, who were implicit in the trade in rosewood.

Those nice chairs are usually made out of rosewood, 红木 hongmu or redwood, and these days, they demand a pretty hefty price. These days, there’s more people than misty poets and retired scholars that appreciate the place of carved seats in an elegant setting: there’s a damned lot of nouveau rich floating around this country, and a damned lot of nouveau rich who are – well – very very rich. They all want the rosewood furniture, because it’s expensive, it reeks of taste and elegance, and they can get dragons carved on it for next to nicks. They’re the kind of people who also have a coterie of mistresses as well, because nothing says money these days in China more than a bevy of mistresses to go with the rosewood.

Meanwhile back in Cambodia, an environmental agency investigating the deaths of  Sieng  Darong and Sab Yoh, found that

“China is the global center of hongmu demand and its log imports in 2014 were the highest on record, topping $2 billion in value, with Cambodia the fifth largest contributor to this industry.”

Along with Camboida, there’s Madagascar and Guinea-Bissau joining in the wholesale logging game, where loggers pay poverty striken people amounts that are comparatively high compared to, say for example, what they’d get for selling cashews. Myannmar tripled the trade in rosewood back in 2013 and it’s still going strong – its forests may be gone in another decade or so.

The elegant furniture, snapped in a classical garden in Nantong, Jiangsu, had been sitting in some gentleman’s home for a couple of centuries. Now period furniture shops are a dime a dozen, chiselling out reproductions so fast its become a mini-industry in itself. 

I’d thought I could make a quick post, one which highlighted the photo, the elegance of the furniture, the attention to beauty, and space, and things’ relationship to each other. The dragon-embellished vase, the flower arrangement, the 书画shuhua.

Life as a meditation on elegance, beauty, and refinement.

Instead I got caught up with the corruption of the world, while Paris burnt.


This becomes this



Rosewood logs, courtesy of Wikipedia. Long rosewood table taken from http://www.theworldofchinese.com/2014/12/chinas-illegal-timber-addiction/

It seems our world is becoming a phoenix. Just like Zhou Gong and Kings Wen and Wu strove to change the bloodthirsty world of the Shang, ordinary people are refusing to be terrorised, and just set about helping the people of Paris. 

The trade in rosewood is monitored by seven different bodies in China, including the Endangered Species Management Office,  with five different national standards relating to rosewood. Chatam House is an organisation dedicated to researching illegal practices in the forest sector for nearly a decade. It’s commissioned report found 

“The Chinese government has made notable progress in its efforts to tackle illegal logging and the associated trade.”

They found that China has engaged with both nation states and the private sector to stop illegal trade in protected forest species, there are high-level intergovernmental cooperation on preventing illegal logging, custom workers are trained to recognise illegal wood, but this is not applicable to all ports.

It’s easy to make throw-away remarks, like the comment at the end of the Take-part article about the deaths of the Cambodian forest rangers – but to say simply – as they did here that “China doesn’t care” – apart from being demonstratably not true, is also not helpful.

Chatham House has made a long list of the positive outcomes China has taken regarding illegal rosewood importation, and also recommends many steps to improve and prevent further smuggling.

In the meantime, I’ll keep my appreciation for rosewood furniture to the ancient type from the Ming and Song. They’re plentiful enough in the Gardens of Suzhou, and thousands of people can enjoy them daily.

Cang Ling Ting and Pan Men 046 copy.jpg

Cang Ling Ting and Pan Men 052 copy

Rosewood chairsfrom the Song dyansty in the Surging Wave pavillion, Suzhou. Forests weren’t depleted 700 years ago when this exquisitely carved chairs were made.