Discover the charm of Chinese wedding cabinets

Discover the charm of Chinese wedding cabinets

If you’re looking for a unique piece of furniture which combines elegant, good looks AND plenty of practical storage space, then a Chinese wedding cabinet could offer the perfect solution! These fabulous items have been a feature of Chinese homes for hundreds of years and were traditionally given in pairs to the groom as part of a bride's dowry by her parents. The cabinets would be filled with fine silks and fabrics, collected over many years by the bride in preparation for her marriage.

Traditional Chinese cabinets can be found in a huge range of beautiful and diverse designs; from simple rustic pieces, through to the highly ornate. Wedding cabinets would have provided most of the storage for couples moving into their first home, making them much-loved items, designed to be treasured and handed down through the generations. Fast-forward to today and Chinese wedding cabinets are ideal for our contemporary interiors, making beautiful yet practical storage solutions for anything from TV and audio systems, through to dinnerware, bed linen, clothes and clutter. 

Shanxi Chinese Wedding Cabinet

Many Chinese wedding cabinets are designed along similar lines, with two internal shelves and either one large drawer or two smaller drawers. Wedding cabinets would have formed a similar function to Western-style wardrobes; however, it’s traditional in China for clothing to be stored flat instead of being hung on rails. Items would have been carefully folded or laid out flat before being stored either on the shelves or inside the drawers. 

It’s not only the preference for storing clothes folded flat which has influenced the unique design of Chinese wedding cabinets. The architecture of Chinese homes is very different to what we’re more familiar with in the West and many homes would have had low, sloping ceilings. Rather than using tall wardrobes in which clothes are hung full length from rails, the most practical solution for Chinese homes would have been storage in the form of cabinets such as wedding cabinets, trunks, and chests. 

Red Lacquer Chinese Wedding Cabinet

As is so often the case with antique Chinese furniture, wedding cabinets can be exquisitely beautiful, featuring highly decorative embellishments such as large brass handle plates and ornate locks, gilding or detailed painted designs. Most were finished with a lustrous lacquered finish, usually in black or red. Many of the finest cabinets were produced in Shanxi province in central China - a region well know for the quality of its lacquered and painted furniture. Here the wonderful decorative paintings were often applied using a technique know as 'miao jin', with delicate gold leaf applied over base paintings to give a wonderful, rich look to the finish. Although lacquered and decorative finishes like this usually wear away over time, we think that the resulting patina simply adds to the charm and beauty of these unique pieces of furniture.

The painted designs which often feature on antique wedding cabinets are often incredibly beautiful and intricately detailed. There’s so much more, though, to these paintings than first meets the eye, as the images used would have been carefully chosen for their meaning. Pomegranate fruit, for example, was seen a symbol of fertility and would have been used to represent a couple’s wish to have many children. Lotus flowers symbolised harmony and continuity in domestic life, whilst tigers are a traditional symbol of strength and protection. 

Black Lacquer Painted Shanxi Wedding Cabinet

As time passed, the design of wedding cabinets began to evolve into a style which offered beauty and elegance alongside domestic functionality. The very finest master craftsmen began to produce wedding cabinets, creating stunning beautiful and decorative pieces. In addition, the purpose of the cabinets began to evolve slightly too, as wedding cabinets were increasingly used to store costly dynastic robes and uniforms. 

Antique Chinese wedding cabinets are now highly sought-after items which, depending on their age and quality, can fetch large sums. However, as the design and quality of these pieces vary, so does the price! Our range of original Chinese antiques often includes at least a couple of stunning wedding cabinets but if you’re looking for something a little more affordable, you’ll find that we also have a beautiful selection of superb quality, handmade reproduction pieces. 

Chinese wedding cabinets make wonderful pieces of furniture and are ideal for adding a touch of original beauty and charm to your home. Whether you use yours to store clothes, bedding, or as a TV or drinks cabinet, we’re sure it’ll become a much-loved talking point you’ll enjoy using for many years to come.

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