From wearing t-shirts with dragons on them to using Buddha as home decor. There has always been a fine line between cultural appropriation and appreciation

Let’s take a deeper look into the architectural design aesthetic called chinoiserie.

Chinoiserie is an interior design style that was created by the western fetishization for Asian motifs and techniques. This European decorative style imitates the art and design of China, Japan and other Asian countries.

This western appropriation of Asian motifs for interior design dates back to the 17th- and 18th-century. Chinoiserie pieces use Chinese motifs as well as decorative flairs seen in more traditional European art.

From an admiration standpoint chinoiserie is often seen as beautiful. But the production of this beauty reflects the appropriated labor and culture that produced it.


The western interest to exoticize Asian women and culture have been expressed through Orientalist tropes and architecture.These western interpretations were based on Chinese exports designed to cater the western audiences.


The idea of chinoiserie is often perceived as a harmless design used to apply a generic "Asian" aesthetic. But its interpretation is a destructive and troubling way of looking at Asian culture. 


For example, a 1755 porcelain work called the Chinese Musicians displays disturbing slanted eyed Chinese figures.

In the world of decor, it is hard to escape chinoiserie. From wallcoverings with colorful patterns embellished with landscapes, flowers, birds and butterflies. 

It is easy to dismiss the origins of chinoiserie. But cultural appropriation still remains an issue. As a result, chinoiserie reduces and flattens out culture for the satisfaction of aesthetics.

It is our duty as consumers to steer the conversation around cultural appropriation. By questioning the design of clothing to a room or even a piece of furniture is a perfect vehicle for change.


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Abigail Heng

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