Cane chairs are a product of colonialism in the literal sense. Rattan and its byproduct, cane, were used widely by native populations in Southeast Asia to construct everything from hats to houses. Chinese and European colonists, with their chair-sitting traditions, had a need for seating in the lands they colonized, and satisfied it using readily available material: rattan. Rattan originally arrived in the Western world as packing material for more valuable goods like spices and tea imported from Asia by the East India Company starting in the 17th century. It’s unclear when craftsmen in England started weaving cane in the six-way pattern, but there’s evidence that this technique existed in China since at least 250 B.C.
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