Nanmu (Chinese: 楠木) is a type of wood that was frequently used for boat building, architectural woodworking and wood art in China. Ming Dynasty era writings indicate this wood as superior durable softwood. A recent excavation of a tomb in Lija village in Jing'an County, Jiangxi Province found 47 coffins made of nanmu wood that are reported to be about 2500 years old dating back to the Eastern Zhou Dynasty period and belongs to the Dongyi State of Xu.
The trees that produce nanmu wood are evergreens that have a long straight trunk which grow to 35 meters in height and one meter in girth. More than 30 varieties exist which are found south of the Yangtze River. There are also nanmu trees on Hainan Island and in Vietnam. Yangmu nanmu is found in Sichuan. Zinan nanmu is found in southeast and south central China. Zinanmu nanmu is found in Jiangsu, Anhui, Zhenjiang. Zhennan nanmu is found in Guizhou and Sichuan. The finest of all the nanmu woods is Hongmao Nanmu from Hainan Island.
Nanmu wood comes from several species of tree, including:
Nanmu is a very knotty wood. It does not react to humidity and temperature much in the way of expansion or contraction and makes superior furniture which tends not to get loose or crack because of changes in climate. Nanmu woods that are lighter in color and have loose grain are considered inferior.
Nanmu was used in architectural woodworking and boat-building due to its resistance to decay. The wood dries with little splitting or warping. After drying the wood is of medium-density and does not change shape. Nanmu can be sanded to a mirror finish.