Chinese Screens & Beds

Screens played a very important part in the furnishing of Chinese households and two distinct types were common from early on in the country’s history. The first was the folding screen, usually made up of four or more hinged panels that could be configured in different ways. This is the style of oriental screen that is more usually seen today. The second type was made from a large single panel set into a wooden stand. Placed on the floor – often around couches and daybeds – both types of screen would provide privacy and protection, and often accorded a certain level of status to their owners.

Single panel screens in particular would often be highly decorative. The panel would usually be lacquered and painted with designs such as landscapes or garden scenes, set into an often intricately carved frame. Folding screens tended to be less decorative and often included lattice work such as that displayed on our own Ming Carved Screen.

Smaller single panel screens were also used by the Chinese, either placed on tables for decoration or on daybeds to protect the sleeper’s head from drafts. The panel of these ‘table screens’ would either be painted or made from carved stone such as marble. Finally, even smaller screens were placed on display tables for decoration or to protect candle light from the wind. Sometimes known as ‘inkstone screens,’ these were also used as part of a calligraphy set. They would be placed in front of the inkstone on a scholar’s desk to prevent dust from settling in the ink.

Read more:
An introduction to Chinese Furniture
Information on Chinese Cabinets and Armoires
Information on Chinese Tables and Chairs
Information on Chinese Trunks and Chests

See our resources section for a list of recommended books and for links to other websites about Chinese furniture.