Antique Lacquer Cabinet on Carved Stand with Interior Drawer, China (16445LME)


H: 22″  W: 21.5″  D: 12.25″

This elm storage cabinet has lacquered and painted door panels  auspicious paintings of birds, foliage, and florals.  The door panels portrays a magpie on a branch of a plum tree and the other has another in a tree with a chrysanthemum below on its left and together they are symbolic wishes for double happiness, a veiled wish for the birth of sons, and longevity. Given the meaningful images seen here, it was a perfect gift for newlyweds, and is a unique gift tradition that should be carried on. The lacquer frame is in excellent condition while the raised painted panels are cracked with and have some paint losses. This is part of the VA Furniture-and-Accessories Collection.


The left door panel portrays a magpie on plum tree branch and the right one has another near a chrysanthemum below at his left. The magpie (xique) is the bird of joy and happiness (xi) and, as xi appears in both words, they form a verbal pun meaning double happiness. This pun is echoed visually by the two magpies, one on each panel. Double-happiness wishes relate to and are an important desire for newlyweds and marriages. In the right panel, the magpie has an image of a chrysanthemum below him on the lower left, and these two words together mean “May the whole family be happy,” a indirect wish for sons. Blue magpies have long tails and are called  “longevity-tailed” and “ribbon-tailed” (shoudainiao) as their tails are similar to a long ribbon (shou) and a pun on longevity (shou). Given this,  storage cabinets with these symbols were perfect gifts for newlyweds and a desire for double happiness in very long and fruitful marriage with sons is central to Chinese cultural goals. This is a gift tradition that should be carried on. This small elm cabinet is from Fujian province that is known for its unique style of highly decorative vernacular furniture. Large and small items like this were constructed with mortise-and- tenon joinery in a red lacquer frame with doors, gilt borders, and auspicious symbols easily understood by an uneducated yet recently nouveau riche class of merchants who saw the red color as their top priority, as it is the color of fu (prosperity and happiness). Mortise-and-tenon joinery made pieces stable, lengthened their life, and allowed woods to adapt to Asia’s variabilities of humidity and temperature, also pleasing this new merchant class. Often placed next to or near a kang, the Chinese platform used for working, living, sleeping, and entertaining, they were convenient for storage and low enough to double as a small table. This one has a stand, opens to a wide interior drawer, and horseshoe feet. The sparkling border around the doors is inset with crushed shells, and the metal pulls on the doors and drawer are original.

Additional information

Place of Origin



Antique, Qing Dynasty



Materials and Technique

Wood, polychrome, lacquer

Dimensions (inches)

Ht: 22” W: 21.5” D: 12.25”

Dimensions (metric)

Ht: 55.88cm W: 54.61cm D: 31.11


18” to 23.9”


18” to 23.9”


Excellent, See Descripton

Reference Number


Shipping Box Size