Chinese Cabinet 88"x 52"x 16"
Chinese carvers made this cabinet in Shanghai in 1895. It stood in the James A. Thomas home in Shanghai until 1915, when it was then shipped to his home in New York. The cabinet remained there until 1935, when he presented it to his daughter, Eleanor Lansing Thomas, who later donated the cabinet to Duke University.
The cabinet was designed to resemble a Chinese temple. Its sloping roof rests on columns entwined with dragons. Dragons also adorn the top of the roof. Two disks rest on the sloping part, with carved characters representing the moon on the left and the sun on the right. Along the border is the Chinese symbol for longevity, shou. Elaborately carved leaves and small dragons adorn the recessed sides and the solid base. A mirror at the back of the cabinet's interior reflects the contents. The glass front doors are framed and protected by thin wooden slats.
NOTE: Chinese and Japanese furniture was not well documented until after East-West trade began in the eighteenth century. Styling was elegant and simple, but ornamentation became more elaborate with the growth of export trade. In the East, furniture makers were regarded more as artisans than as artists, so no names or schools associated with furniture design were articulated. Furniture makers used very hard woods in constructing the pieces and most wood material had to be imported. Chief among the imports was teak, a very strong and durable wood native to Burma.
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