Antique Miniature Home Altar Table, Decorative Panels with a Hǒu , China (19433BCK)


H: 9”  W: 18.5”  D: 5.875” | CALL/EMAIL FOR SHIPPING QUOTE

As a wish for a prosperous and healthy family with many sons, this small table probably was in a young couple’s bedroom to hold small personal statues and store precious items. On the right panel Guanyin sits a hǒu holding a lotus in each hand and the left panel has two rats with melons.  The 3 drawers and 2 doors have metal teardrop pulls on radiating scalloped discs. The doors and delicately scrolled apron are adorned with finely carved, painted, heavily gilded, and lacquer-covered reliefs surrounded by rounded borders with more auspicious symbols. The piece has a red and brown hue with bright red insets and is in excellent condition.


Chinese artisans devoted as much time and effort to create small accessories like this home altar table as they invested in larger pieces. It is handcrafted with mortise-and-tenon joints, using no nails or glue which made it more stable and longer lasting. The surface blend multiple layers of different colors  of blacks and reds interspersed by coats of lacquer, all hand applied and rubbed to create a  a rich soft reddish patina. Most antique Chinese decorative furnishings and accessories like this contain symbolic auspicious designs that reflect a wish for fu and the Five Blessings or Happinesses – wealth, health, longevity, love of virtue and a peaceful death. This table might have been a wedding gift for the newly weds with symbols to have many children. The rats symbolize fertility, wealth, and abundance  and are often portrayed, as here, with melons that mean “fertility in abundance.”  Starting in the Ming, White Robed Guanyins were portrayed on mythical beasts, the hǒu symbolizing righteousness, morality, and the mandate of heaven to usher in peace and prosperity. Both Guanyin images and the hǒu are syncretic, associated with the lotus she holds, a Buddhist symbol of purity embraced in Taoism and Popular Religion.  The hǒu resembles a Buddhist or fu lion with its roaring mouth open symbolizing Guanyin’s power over the forces of nature. The hǒu are also revered as mythical animals who gather and guard money for their masters and defend them from bad fortune. This accessory table is functional and a perfect piece on which to create a small home altar and would be unique as wedding gifts. This piece is in the VA Accessories-and-Furniture Collection.





Additional information

Place of Origin



Antique, Qing Dynasty

Materials and Technique

Wood, polychrome, lacquer

Dimensions (inches)

Ht: 9” W: 18.5” D: 5.875”

Dimensions (metric)

Ht: 22.86cm W: 46.99cm D: 15.18cm


5lb 1oz


Excellent, fine patina demonstrating age and use

Reference Number


Shipping Box Size