Chinese Elm Wanli Cabinet
Beijing, circa 1850
This stunning piece of furniture is in a style referred to in China as a 'wanli' cabinet - essentially a combination of a lower storage section with doors and an open display shelf above. Here the upper shelf is framed with intricate relief carvings, beautifully worked and showing scrolling leaves, gourds and butterflies to symbolise marital happiness and prosperity. On the bottom apron there are wonderfully detailed open carvings of flowers around two deer and a central lingzi mushroom - symbols for wealth, rank and longevity. This cabinet is made of elm, one of most common woods used for furniture making in the northern region of China, and the colour is original. The heavy brass circular plates on the doors are original, though the four hinges may have been replaced at some point as evidenced by the slightly larger discoloured circles around them. The cabinet has two narrow drawers inside as well as a removable shelf. the centre post between the doors can also be removed to allow larger items to be placed inside. A rare and beautiful cabinet that would take centre stage in any setting.