Subject:Re: Zitan/Hongmu Carved Cabinet
Posted By: TimG Tue, Apr 09, 2019
Nice find! Your photos show clearly that zitan was used in your cabinet. However, I can not tell if hongmu was also used as well.
The difference between the two woods is fairly easy to determine - take a cotton ball or cotton swab (Q-tip), dip it in some denatured alcohol, and wipe whichever section of the cabinet you wish to test.
The black patina of zitan is actually dried red dye that the wood precipitates over time, and will turn the cotton red.
Hongmu also can obtain a black patina, but it will turn the cotton brown/black.
Repeat throughout the piece to identify which parts are zitan, and which are hongmu.
Also, the grain of zitan is usually porous and twisted, and certain crops cuts of the wood will show zig zag growth rings (similar to the manner of rhino horn). Hongmu has less pores and a very strait grain.
As for age, Certainly Qing, but without handling the piece, I'd just be guessing...there are some very fine Republic made copies of early Imperial styles.