Oriental chairs in the West

Here’s a chair I visited on the recent trip to New York.  It lives in The Scholar’s Garden in Snug Harbour Cultural Centre on Staten Island.  This Garden is a recent addition to the Botanic Gardens made in what used to be a retreat for ‘aged, decrepit and worn-out sailors’. The chairs are in one of the pavilions which were built by 40 chinese craftsmen in 1998.  The chairs are very striking to me. The bow seems to be carved rather than bent:

Dangerously short grain at the curly end, but so elegant.


I was also taken by the friendly method of bracing the front legs.  Not a high rung to dig into the back of your ankle, but a low one to rest your feet on:


The splat at the back was definitely bent, so maybe steaming was used.  I have no knowledge of Chinese chairmaking techniques, just an appreciation for these beauties:

The whole of the garden was an amazing feast for the eyes and the soul.  Here is the Moon Viewing Pavilion of Crispness:

Even the floors are amazing – 100 pebbles in each of these panels:

Surprise views at every turn:

4 thoughts on “Oriental chairs in the West

  1. G’day Richard,

    I always look forward to your blog entries. Great Stuff!

    There is a video of the garden at:

    I find Chinese Gardens to be mystical places, we are lucky to have one in Vancouver, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
    When the craftsmen came over from China I spent the summer watching them work which then slowly turned into carrying and passing them bits and pieces as I was there everyday.


    • Amazing that the video was produced with no other visitors around! Bet it gets crouded on free Tuesdays when the blossom is on the trees though. I’ll be doing another post about the crane mosaic there in a bit.

  2. Hi Richard,

    What a great garden and in Staten Island, not a place I think of to visit! This will get shared with friends and family in NYC in case they don’t know of it. Leave it to a “furener” to open our eyes to what we have! In the late 70s I took weekly guitar lessons from the great Chuck Wayne, who lived there. I drove from the New Jersey side, through Perth Amboy, and my recollections of the island are pretty uninviting.

    I, too, am drawn to the beauty of those chairs. They are the inspiration for a piece I built (http://www.ticovogt.com/?p=133). The book on Chinese Furniture mentioned in that post shows several of these chairs. In the 80s there was an article in Fine Woodworking magazine about a craftsman from SE Asia, Thailand perhaps, who made chairs in that tradition, and it explained the techniques. I’ll try to dig it up.

    By the way, a fantastic novel I read this year by the author Joseph On’Neill is “Netherland” . It involves cricket in NYC, beginning in Staten Island, and transplanted Brits working in the city. Great read.


    • Yes, we crossed to Staten Island on the free ferry with what seemed like hundreds of tourists and we saw about three of them in the garden, but it is 85 acres! I guess the bulk of the visitors landed up in the colonial historic area instead, we passed on the latter. Unfortunately we missed out on a restaurant “R H Tugs” with a great view of the tankers and tug boats in Kill van Kull straits

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