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A MING DYNASTY HUANGHUALI WOOD LUOHAN BED WITH ROUND LEGS AND DOUBLE CIRCLE ORNAMENTAL DESIGN

Overall Height: 30.5 in. (77.5 cm.), Platform Height: 21.5 in. (55 cm.), Length: 82.25 in. (209 cm.), Depth: 41.75 in. (106 cm.), Circa 1600-1675

Published in the Journal of The Classical Chinese Furniture Society, Winter 1991, p. 17, in Dr. Sarah Handler’s monograph on Luohan beds – “Comfort and Joy: A Couch Bed for Day and Night.” Compare with a zitan wood round legged Luohan bed in Wang Shixiang’s Classic Chinese Furniture, 1986, pl. 122, p. 183, which has plain ornamental struts and a single waist molding surrounding the platform frame. In our exhibit, the solid back panel of huanghauli wood and dual waist moldings, combined with double circle motifs, give this bed a perfectly proportioned and restrained elegance.

The construction and form of this Couchbed with Round Legs is discussed in further detail on pages 93 to 96 in Dr. Sarah Handler’s Ming Furniture In The Light of Chinese Architecture: “The couchbed was especially popular for use in the scholar’s studio where it was convenient for sleeping, reclining, and sitting with books and scrolls spread about. The studio was a man’s private space, a symbol of his success, and a sign of his cultivation. It was where he studied, wrote, painted, played musical instruments, and informally entertained friends….

Much more subtle is the huanghuali couchbed with round legs on which the evocative graining of the wood suggests flowing water - - turbulent then calm, eddying and flowing. The natural beauty of the wood is displayed to great advantage in the low railings consisting of solid panels with breadboard ends. The bed has a strong, well-proportioned form. Pairs of interlocking circles separate the rounded stretchers that encircle the massive round legs. A pair of interlocked circles symbolize doubled happiness and represent two Chinese coins known as shuang qian which is a near homonym for shuang quan meaning ‘both complete’. The seat frame appears to have a molded edge, but in fact the rounded edge of the seat frame rests on a separate stretcher. By this means the same effect is achieved using less lumber, which is not only more economical but also produces a lighter piece of furniture. The double-molded effect is derived from bamboo furniture construction in which several pieces of bamboo are lashed together for greater strength. Interlocking double circles, leg-encircling stretchers, and round legs are also characteristic of light, hollow bamboo furniture. Here these same elements have been used for their decorative potential to create a piece with visual lightness and grace fashioned from heavy, massive hardwood. Great care was taken with the design and workmanship of this bed and even the back is finished with the same detail as the front.”

 

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