As part of Lan Su Chinese Garden’s ongoing maintenance, the original Hall of Brocade Cloud nanmu wood-framed windows have been temporarily removed for restoration. The handcrafted nan wood windows were designed and built specifically for Lan Su, and are truly irreplaceable. Due to the short eaves and direct sunlight, the south facing side of the Hall of Brocade Clouds receives some of the most severe effects of our Pacific Northwest weather. Even with regular cleaning and maintenance, temperature changes over time compounded by direct sun and heavy rain can break down even the best finishes and expose wood to excessive drying and fading.
What is Nan Wood?
Nan wood, or 楠木 [nánmù] in Chinese, is important in Chinese woodworking and architecture. It is from the Phoebe spp., a slow growing tree of the evergreen laurel family that has a long straight trunk and can reach more than 100 feet in height. The wood is highly resistant to decay, dries well with minimal warping or splitting and can be sanded to a beautiful sheen. Because of these features, nanmu is prized for furniture and cabinet making, and is ideal for delicate architectural features, such as the intricate lattice panel windows here at Lan Su.
There are many different types of Phoebe that nanmu wood comes from. Some types, like Phoebe zhennan, or ‘golden thread’ nanmu, has historically been a prized and valuable species wood due to its unique beauty but today is also threatened due to habitat loss. It was often reserved for royalty and can be found in the Forbidden City palace complex in Bejing.Phoebe nees, the nanmu used in Lan Su’s architecture is also a threatened species, albeit less so. Phoebe nees was frequently mentioned in Ming dynasty scholar’s writings as a wood of superior excellence, and was used in all kinds of ways, from boat building to crafting small scholar’s objects.
How to Help
To make sure our windows last for generations to come, it is important that we perform this conservation work when necessary. If you would like to participate in helping keep Lan Su beautiful, you can support our conservation and repair work at www.lansugarden.org/give