Heavily carved Cantonese hung mook (rosewood) and shuen jee (blackwood) furniture has been a popular export from the mainland for a couple of centuries. Many pieces found their way to Southeast Asia; high-quality items sometimes appear in small-town second-hand shops in Malaysia and Indonesia. Northern China was known for the paler-coloured wong fah lei (yellow-flowering pear) wood, which was not commonly exported. Cantonese blackwood furniture was often inset with pieces of marble. The best marble was streaked with thin coloured veins that, with some imagination, resembled the cloud-shrouded crags and peaks of Chinese mountain scenery. This imagery added to the item's visual appeal - and price. Blackwood is also durable - essential with the brutal banging that the average mahjong table sustains over its lifetime. Camphor-wood chests were popular purchases in the days when most tourists travelled by sea. One of the oldest jokes in the Far East maintained that European women who came to Hong Kong eventually departed with either a husband or a camphor-wood chest, depending on their success - or lack thereof - in the marriage market. Forget Hollywood Road and its exorbitant overheads; some of the best Cantonese blackwood furniture can be found in Guangzhou, not far from the old foreign settlement on Shamian Island. Prices are high but so is the quality. And, as ever in modern China, caveat emptor applies to every prospective purchase. Since the late 19th century, Queen's Road East, in Wan Chai, has been the place to go for custom-made furniture. But like most other industries in Hong Kong, the furniture factories have been located on the mainland since the 1980s. Much of the high-quality hardwood used by today's furniture makers comes from Southeast Asia. Supplies have drastically dwindled due to deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia, and timber is increasingly being sourced from Brazil and West Africa. Furniture made from these tropical woods could - and should - be a lifetime investment. Sadly, like much else in Hong Kong, many pieces are simply thrown away when tastes change, people move house or the latest fashionable fung shui master decrees some essential luck-enhancing changes in home decor.