Korean Scholar’s Document Chest with Rare Exposed Tenon Post Style

1860, Zelkova “dragon wood”, iron fittings, found on Kangwha Island. Certified.

This document chest is made from zelkova but because certain deep grains on this chest resemble image of a dragon, it is given a special name “dragon wood ” by the Korean and Japanese and is the most valued by artisans of both countries.  This chest was made for a scholar, an elite class of people in that ancient period.  No one could be in high office without being highly literate at that period.  This chest was for him to store his documents, manuscripts and scrolls.

This chest is artistically constructed in an alternating exposed-tenon post style and decorated with bands of metalwork.  A small drawer comes out at each end in front under the top panel to store small personal items.  A door panel opens down on hooped hinged to reveal storage space for documents and such, items valuable to a scholar.  The deep grain on the top would not make a good writing table for the scholar, but the low chest would make a nice table for him to sit by on cushions to study his collection of important paperwork, and to show off periodically his collection of antique porcelain and religious or ancestral figures.  The dark lacquer preserved the wood and makes it look rich.

This unusual piece was recovered after the Japanese Occupation on a prison colony where some Korean elites were sent into exile.  It is certified rare by an appraiser approved by the Korean government in the 1900s.