What’s the Difference Between Chinese and Japanese Screens?

Room divider screens are very popular pieces of furniture throughout the world, but in Europe consumers seem to have a thirst for Far Eastern merchandise. One of the most popular items to quench this ‘thirst’ is a folding screen – it seems to encompass everything that is far eastern but also has a functional purpose. Do you know if the screen in your home is Japanese or Chinese though and can you tell by looking at it where it has come from?

One of the main points to tell if your screen is Japanese or Chinese is by the composition of the illustration on the screen. In Japan, in a lot of important ceremonies or eating as a family will take place in a seated position on the floor. Therefore a lot of the detail of a Japanese screen will be low down – at eye level when seated on the floor. A Chinese screen however may well use the whole area of the screen to depict an image, an the main central point will be the focus.

The second easy way to tell if your screen is Chinese or Japanese is by type of illustration on it. The illustrations found on Chinese screens will look far more complicated when placed next to a Japanese screen. The Japanese illustrations focused much more on symbolism and significant compositions than the Chinese did. The Chinese screens were more likely to be romantic scenes of swans and beautiful scenery that weren’t meaningless, but certainly didn’t have the underlying meanings that the Japanese illustrations did.

The third way is to look at the materials and construction method of the screen. The Japanese paid much more attention to the material that were used with their screens. You only have to look at a typical traditional Japanese home to see that care and intricate use of different timbers that go in to creating it. This intricate use of differing timbers has not surprisingly been passed through to the construction of their screens. Some Chinese screens it would be difficult to identify that there was any timber in them at all as one traditional method was to coat the timber in a clay. This gave a beautiful fine finished surface to which they could apply their designs.

Chinese or Japanese, the choice is down to you, to a certain extent it will be your home interior that make the choice for you. If the screen is going behind a sofa or other piece of furniture you may well be better off opting for a Chinese screen – as a the main focal point of the Japanese screen will be hidden out of view.