Although the term “vernacular” refers to furniture made from 1850-1920 (late Qing – Chinese Republic) for Chinese society outside the imperial court, it more broadly encompasses a broad range of furnishings, decorative and religious items. The expanded trade and interactions with the West by Qing emperors brought stability, prosperity, and consumerism that transformed Chinese tastes in the arts and design. A newly emerged prosperous merchant class became a counter force to the rigid Ming imperial class of elite scholars and literati. Outside the imperial court, vernacular regional creativity flourished for conservative tastes of the rustic, simple less sophisticated tastes of peasant in rural villages as well as the flamboyant, ostentatious and colorful tastes for wealthy merchants in urban areas. Most pieces were made in Fujian known for its unique style of highly decorative vernacular furniture made from a hardwood with less expensive pieces of elm or pine. These furniture and accessories were often colored and painted with scenery and designs decorated with gold leaf and ornate and pierced carvings to show wealth. Many were covered with auspicious symbols easily recognized by illiterate populations and with red, the color for prosperity and fu (happiness). Large and small cabinets were constructed with mortise and tenon joinery, often in a red lacquer frame inset with black and gilt painting of scenery, florals and birds and doors framed with gilt borders. Among the most elaborate vernacular pieces were cabinets, dressing boxes, ladies’ vanities and jewelry boxes many with drawers to store valuables and other decorative and practical accessories.

Nancy Berliner and Sarah Handler, Friends of the House: Furniture from Chinese Towns and Villages, Peabody Essex Museum Collection, Salam, MA 1995
Karen Mazurkewich, Chinese Furniture, A Guide to Collecting Antiques, Tuttle Publishing, North Clarendon, VT, 2006
Andrea & Lynde McCormick, Chinese Country Antiques, Vernacular Furniture and Accessories, c. 1780-1920, Schiffer Publications, Atglen, PA, 2000.
Margie L. Yates, Antique Chinese Accessories, Vernacular Items, c. 1850-1930, Schiffer Publications, Atglen, PA, 2000.

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  • Antique Carved Sweetmeat Confection Mold, China (3214A-BKE)

    H: 5.625″  W: 27.875″  D: 9.75″ | FOR SHIPPING INFORMATION CONTACT US AT 213-568-3030

    This exceptionally crafted and beautiful footed confection mould  was most probably a marriage gift from a wealthy family to the newly wed as seen its symbols.  It is elaborated and ornately decorated in vibrant reds and gilt with many auspicious symbols for fidelity, fertility and happiness with lotuses and pods filled with seeds, bats, paired fish and intertwined vines. 


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  • Antique Lacquer and Gilt Straits Chinese (Peranakan) Shrine Cabinet, China (3986BKE) $595

    H: 16.375″  W: 13.625″  D: 5.75″ | FOR SHIPPING INFORMATION CONTACT US AT 213-568-3030

    This intricately carved black and heavily gilt antique cabinet is a fine example of a Straits Chinese furniture made in Guangdong for the Southeast Asia market.  Carved openwork panels with phoenixes and lotuses are symbolic wishes for harmony, blessings, rank, good fortune; outstretched wings wish for harmonious marriage, many sons and the inside decoration a wish for status and successful career. Although flamboyant for todays taste, it is a unique accent piece and gift for newly weds.


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  • Antique Lacquer Cabinet on Carved Stand with Interior Drawer, China (16445LME) $450

    H: 22″  W: 21.5″  D: 12.25″ | FOR SHIPPING INFORMATION CONTACT US AT 213-568-3030

    This elm storage cabinet has lacquered and painted door panels  auspicious paintings of birds, foliage, and florals.  One door panel has  a magpie on a plum tree and the other has a tree with a chrysanthemum below –  together they are wishes for double happiness, the birth of sons, and longevity.

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  • Antique Ladies Vanity Cabinet with Elaborate Carving (16442LMK) $695

    Ht: 20.75”  W:  19.125”  D: 11” | FOR SHIPPING INFORMATION CONTACT US AT 213-568-3030

    This very fine ladies vanity cabinet is covered with red lacquer, the color of blessings (fu), highlighted with gold and deeply carved and painted decorations of auspicious symbols to bring happiness, good fortune, long life and many sons to the elite couple who may have received it as a wedding gift by parents in hopes of them successfully carrying on the family tradition.  This is a reflection of the Confucian belief having sons to carry on the family name is essential to real happiness.

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  • Antique Low Lacquered Wood Table, China (16005LMK) $595

    H: 5.625″  W: 27.875″  D: 9.75″ | FOR SHIPPING INFORMATION CONTACT US AT 213-568-3030

    This charming small antique wood cabinet has two intricately carved drawers for storage and was probably made from elmwood.  Its low profile and fine lacquered finish add warmth and a touch of antique fine craftsmanship lends itself to a multitude of uses in any setting.  Auspicious symbols to bring blessings of fu carved on it include peonies and vines surrounding the butterfly pull, plum blossom and a Japanese lily on the left. The two sides have inset panel with florals and the bottom of the three sides has a decorative apron with fretwork vine design. It is covered with a warm patina which extends to the detailed brass butterfly handles. The drawers have marvelous carved wood designs.

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  • Antique Miniature Gilt Cabinet with Side Carving, China (19223BAK) $435

    H: 15.25”  W: 11.125”  D: 4.875” | FOR SHIPPING INFORMATION CONTACT US AT 213-568-3030

    This cabinet painted in auspicious red and gilt with block feet and a scalloped apron is especially charming with front door panels decorated with raised rectangular registers bordered in black and gilt and a bottom drawer with original metal pulls decorated with painted florals. The ornate side panel has two small and one large deeply carved registers:  the bottom two registers have floral images: one has a peony, and the other is a couple under a willow tree.

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  • Antique Two Sided Sweetmeat Confection-Mold, China (3562BLE) $425

    H: 15.125″  W: 14.875  D: 1.25″

    This beautiful intricately hand carved, decorated and red lacquered confection-mold with carved indentations on both sides was probably an wedding gift for a wealthy family filled with auspicious symbols –  5-petal plum blossoms with vines and seeds are wishes for good fortune, prosperity, long life and many sons.  IT would make a unique wedding gift for a lucky couple.

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