Chinese Furniture Materials:
Walnut (Hetao) 核桃木

Walnut (Juglans) was used for many examples of Qing period furniture sourced from the Shanxi region, which generally demonstrate refined workmanship; earlier pieces are extremely rare. Walnut is easily confused with nanmu, however, the surface of walnut tends to have more of an open-grained texture, and the color tends more towards golden-brown or reddish-brown when contrasted with the olive-brown tones of nanmu. Furthermore, their freshly worked surfaces each emit a distinctive fragrance.

China has several species of walnut that produce timber suited for high-quality furniture-making. True Walnut (J. regia L.) is generally cultivated in the north and northwestern regions, but also extends into the southwestern provinces. It is a deciduous tree reaching 20 meters in height that produces an edible nut that can be pressed into a high-quality vegetable oil. The light-colored sapwood is clearly distinguishable from the heartwood, the latter being reddish-brown too chestnut-brown in color, and sometimes even purplish, or with darker striated patterning. It dries very slowly, but is quite stable afterwards. It is of medium density (±.62 g/cm3) and has a relatively fine texture.

Because True Walnut is generally cultivated for its fruit rather than timber, Manchurian Walnut (J. mandsharica M.) is often used in its place. It is distributed throughout the northern to northeastern forests of China. It is somewhat lower in density (±.53 g/cm3) than True Walnut, and somewhat lighter in color. Wild Walnut (J. cathayensis) is distributed throughout central-to-eastern China, with noted concentrations in Yunnan province.

Extract from:

Evarts, Curtis. C. L. Ma Collection: Traditional Furniture from the Greater Shanxi Region, 1999.