Chinese Trunks & Chests

Wooden chests and blanket boxes were used throughout China from early on in the country’s history, and remain popular for storage today. Sizes ranged from small boxes that would be placed on a table, to huge chests that would be placed on the floor against a wall. They were used throughout the Ming and Qing Dynasties to store everything from clothes and blankets in the bedroom to grain and other food in the kitchen. Sets of chests in different sizes were frequently stacked one on top of the other for bedroom storage, and would often be placed on top of a cabinet.

Chinese chests were made using a dovetail construction - as are the Blanket Trunks and other chests in our own range - and designed with hinged lids and large brass lock plates. These lock plates were often richly decorated with classic Chinese designs like the scrolling lotus or dragon and cloud motifs. Particularly towards the end of the Ming period, storage chests would often have been set onto a separate carved stand.

Because of its insect-repelling properties and fragrant aroma, camphor was a popular wood for constructing storage chests, particularly in the south of China where it was more readily available. However other woods were also used, especially northern elm. Although mostly plain in appearance to show the beautiful grain of the wood, some chests and boxes were also finished in red or black lacquer and painted on the front and side panels, usually with landscape scenes.

Although chests of drawers as we know them today were not used by the Chinese for storing clothes, the concept of the drawer was developed early on in China. Drawers were incorporated into all types of cabinet, and multi-drawer chests were used not only by pharmacists for storing herbs and other medicines but also by other groups of society, particularly scholars, for more general storage.

Read more:
An introduction to Chinese Furniture
Information on Chinese Cabinets and Wardrobes
Information on Chinese Tables and Chairs
Information on Chinese Screen and beds

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