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A rare timbre, red sandalwood, also known as zitan (紫檀), used to be regarded as equal to gold and jade in ancient China. The evergreen tree grows so slowly that it takes around 300 years before it reaches full growth. And only 1/10 of its content can be utilized for making furniture. The growth rings of a red sandalwood tree are closely spaced together, and the timber is extremely dense and hard. Unlike common wood materials, the red sandalwood is so heavy that it sinks in water! It is usually purplish-red in color, sometimes with grayish-black hues, but darkens overtime. The wood gives off a subtle fragrance, which, coupled with its color and shade, gives the furniture a note of elegance and prestige.

The red sandalwood was widely sought and used by the aristocracy of Ming & Qing Dynasties, especially the royal families. Officials of all ranks would take care to collect it in tribute to the emperor. In the Forbidden City, almost all the furniture is made of sandalwood.

The China Red Sandalwood Museum is the first and largest private museum in China dedicated to the collection, research and display of red sandalwood furniture and artworks. Nearly one thousand pieces of red sandalwood items are on display in the Museum, including both the collection of Mme. Chen Lihua (the Museum’s founder), and those archaized furniture items hand-made under Mme. Chen’s guidance over the past decades. Visitors to the Museum may also feast their eyes on the various miniatures of Chinese classic architectures, such as Beijing siheyuan (courtyard residential house), Feiyun Tower in Shanxi Province, corner tower of the Fobbiden City, memorial archway of Longquan Monastery at Mt. Wutai, etc. Abundant descriptions are available in the Museum featuring the material, model, craftsmanship and manufacturing process of Chinese classic furniture.
China Red Sandalwood Museum China Red Sandalwood Museum

 red sandalwood miniature of corner tower of Forbidden City

 imperial throne, archaized, made of red sandalwood

China Red Sandalwood Museum China Red Sandalwood Museum

red sandalwood furniture set

 red sandalwood furniture set

The China Red Sandalwood Museum is situated at Gaobeidian on the Beijing-Tongzhou Expressway which is a direct east extension of Beijing’s Chang’an Avenue. A five-minute drive from the Museum can take you to Gaobeidian Folk Cultural Street, another Beijing attraction recommendable for furniture lovers.
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