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January 10, 2010

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Good luck symbols on Ming chair

SHANGHAI Museum's furniture exhibition room is named after two brothers of the Hong Kong Chuang family, Chuang Tze-Yuen and Chuang Tze-Kong, who donated a large number of exhibits in the 1990s.

One of the donations is a folding wooden armchair (pictured) the family bought for a very low price from Wang Shixiang, a renowned antiques expert and collector.

Typical of the style of ancient Chinese home design, especially in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the armchair is slight in structure rather than chunky.

It was one of the significant pieces of furniture in a household, usually placed in a prominent position of the sitting room, for example, in the middle of the room.

Only the most important members of the family were permitted to sit on it.

The armchair is of typical Ming style with simple but elegant shape and carvings.

Its features include openwork carvings at the back of the chair which are in three distinct parts.

At the top has been carved a ruyi, a curved decorative scepter that symbolizes power or good fortune.

In the middle is featured a qilin, a mythical creature that is believed to bring prosperity and good luck.

Around the creature have been carved rocks and linzhi. Linzhi is a rare mushroom used in traditional Chinese medicine which is believed through myth to have a benevolent influence that brings happiness and longevity.

Curved shapes of herbs have been carved into the bottom of the back of the chair.

The thin armrests are curved for the user's comfort and the surface is so smooth that it shines under the soft light.

The seat's support frame is designed so it can be easily folded.

The armchair is made of Huanghuali, literally meaning "yellow flowering pear wood," a member of the rosewood family.

The color is neither too dark nor too light and the indistinct pattern of the grain evokes the wood's unique beauty.

It is regarded as one of the finest woods in China for furniture making, appreciated and cherished by ancient scholars and furniture collectors.


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