Chest Room

Chests contain the family treasuries of the common folks.

Taking a glance at chests of family, you will know whether or not the family is ample of money or cereals. The well-off families use bronze to strengthen the corners of their chests, in addition to decorative carvings of various patterns. The poor families, on the other hand, simply nail up a few thin planks to contain their few belongings. The saying goes, 'a full wallet is plump, an empty one is sunken. The 'grain chests' are seen only in rich families. The 'armed escorted chest' is the safe lock in which the armed escorting professionals carry the valuables, so they must be heavy and secure so as not to be easily prized up or stolen away.

Of course a chest is after all a container. The owner put in it his belongings, wishing nobody to mess about but everybody to see. As they contain the precious items, the chests look quite interesting and special. The 'big bronze chests' represent the happiness and riches of every pair of newly-weds. The social status of the two families is indicated by the big bronze chests placed on the main kang(a bed with heating under the bricks, widely used in Chinese countryside) first of all the number of the chests counts. At least a pair of them is expected, and the higher and larger they mount up, the more impressive the manner. Upon those bronze-covered chests are delicately carved all kinds of patterns that carry sincere blessings: Magpie (blissful bird in China) mounting plum tree, Dragon and Phoenix greeting the Sun, Perfect round moon and blossom, etc. Besides there is a big bronze lock in the shape of fish (a pun, meaning financial earning). The whole group of bronze chests shines and glints of riches, and are thought to bring fortune to the husband and wife. On the contrary, the book chests of the intellectuals are preferred to be weaved with thin bamboo stripes, which represents elegance and beauty. Carved camphorwood chests, big painted leather chests, big mahogany chests in North Shaanxi, sutra chest carved with the Eight Treasures, birch bark chest made by Elunchun etc. These chests are in different styles, yet all of which have witness the joys and sorrows of human life, and have already deeply attached to the life of common folks.

In a way a chest is a family, as the entire treasuries of a family lies in it.

Collected from: Yanbian, Liaoning, Beijing, Shanxi, Jiangxi, Hebei, Zhejiang, Shaanxi, Heilongjiang

Time span: Ming Dynasty, Qing Dynasty, to the Modern Times, about 500 years.