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...magnificent visual statement...

The need for lockable storage in the wealthy Chinese household has been covered in some detail in About Cabinets and About Decorative Boxes.


Large chests evolved to fulfill that same need, and give us the wonderfully executed examples that are currently in our Collection. They are magnificent visual statements, while, as ever with Chinese furniture, serving a functional need.


They were used in combination with the cabinets in the Chinese home to provide rectangular storage space for clothing, bedding, furs and robes. Robes were never stored hanging vertically as in the West today, but stored folded and flat.


Given the size and extravagance of courtly robes in China, this demanded a range of chests, from the massive yet supremely elegant half hinged example, to the smaller more decorous chests, for a woman’s clothing, often part of her dowry. 

Chests

The use of camphor wood (chang mu) was specifically for chests designed to store the most valuable furs and garments, given that camphor is a natural insect repellent, particularly for moths.


The wood is covered with tightly stretched leather and stitched into place. In some examples the leather is left to acquire a natural vellum tone, ageing to give a wonderful marble effect. Alternatively the rich red lacquer, with the patina of age, makes an equally bold yet elegant decorative statement.


Clients have used them for their original purpose, placing them at the end of the bed: alternatively some clients use them as coffee tables.