16th/17th C, Sophora, Shanxi. Considered “honorific seat”; of extinct wood, elegantly styled; aged but fit in contemporary setting. 15½” h. 69” w. 28½” d
This platform bed or “day bed” is quite rare not only because of its age but also because it is made of Sophora, a wood extinct after the Ming period due to the slow growth of the tree and its over-use as furniture-building material. (Read about this wood in the heading “About Chinese Furniture”). It is constructed in the traditional classical style and exhibits an elegance known for many of the low platforms which as far back as Tang and Song dynasties were recorded to be used as honorific seats. Scholarly gentlemen would relax on them on woven mats, sometimes leaning on a pillow form to listen to music played for their pleasure, or sit on it and read classics, or examine works of calligraphy or paintings, or simply take light refreshment on a kang table on the platform.
The wide top is comprised of two thick planks fitted snugly together and has very big boss-head nails embedded in two rows across it to reinforce the planks, or might just to denote value as metal was very expensive at that early era. The thick plank has a convex half-round edge with beading at the lower edge. This top hangs over a waist made up of tiered molded sections. The top section is sharply molded and the lower one is recessed under a ledge fitted tightly under the top tier. From this wide waist section, the all-around apron blouses slightly outward to a lively, curvilinear line with cusps and arches in the middle, then flows at each end into very short cabriole legs that terminate in graceful “praying mantis” feet resting on round pads. This style of feet is not common as most platform beds end with horse-hoof feet. All these pieces fitted together present this structure a most elegant silhouette.
This platform bed made of dense Sophora (Huai) is extremely heavy. It survived in excellent condition, with its thick dark lacquer intact. There is no “coffee table” in China. Today, this elegant bed would make a beautiful coffee table, and when paired off with a pair of sleek-looking black leather chairs, would give a room a magnificent contemporary look. It is a treasure to have because not many furniture from this era and made of this rare wood can easily be found today.