Termed by many Western writers as 'decorative art' of China. It resided as much in the deployment of objects within an interior (and occasionally exterior) setting showing a socially acceptable degree of taste and refinement, and in the ascribed social status of the objects' owner.

There is not a single piece of Chinese furniture of any type or period signed by its maker. Indeed the vast majority of these makers are totally anonymous. There are no surviving account books, or collections of engraved design. There do not appear to survive even individual working sketches or models (if such things ever existed at all).

Contemporary evidence is available, from the viewpoint of both customer and maker, for perhaps the most interesting period of the development of Chinese furniture, the century between about 1580 and about 1680.