Long Bench with Double-molded Seat


18th C, Walnut, Gansu.  Simple line and no adornment makes this bench fit easily into contemporary settings.
62¼” w. 17½” d. 19½” h.

This bench is symmetrical on both sides. It is made of walnut, a highly valued wood in China, in a round-leg style with the legs extending from the far corners instead of recessed under the top.

The seat is fitted with a hard seat frame with a floating panel in the middle, and an additional convex molding is nailed to the lower edge of the frame, creating a layered effect such as that found in the construction of the “bamboo style” of furniture. This style is an example of furniture construction that emerged in the late Ming period and flourished during the Qing period.

The seat is constructed with both standard mortise-and-tenon miter joint which tenons through the sides of the top frame, as well as “slip tenon miter joint”, with leg-tenons penetrating through the top surface. Two cross-braces underneath add sturdiness to a rather long seat-top. The bench has circular legs, and like the rounded molding forms, are influenced by early day bamboo furniture construction.

The seat panel shows a number of burn marks, perhaps because it was sometimes used as an altar table. More possibly, in Gansu, a province in northwestern China, it was common practice to cook with an iron pot. This bench was likely being used, beside as a seat and altar table, as a table for serving food, when an iron pot with food was casually placed on it. The mark causes some disfiguring of the surface but gives us today an insight into its cultural usage. With a simple line and no adornments, it would blend nicely with contemporary furniture.