Ming Folding Traveling Chair

17th/18th Century
Elm, woven matting

This kind of folding chair is of much historical value as they were made mainly for high officials for their convenience on outings such as at music and opera performances. They were something of status, something special even back in the old days, and since they are quite fragile, very few survived with the passage of time; the ones did are now quite rare.

The chair retains much of its black lacquer finish, with decorative parts highlighted in red lacquer. The straight crest-rail has its ends protrude beyond the back frame posts, which arched towards the back. The backrest is of framed three-panel construction, with the top and lower panels finished with red lacquer. The top red panel has pierced carving of a “ruyi” motif (symbol of “grant all wishes”). The central panel is plain and the bottom one has an opening with curvaceous lower edge. This backrest is strengthened by a black stretcher panel with a red scrolling leaf design across the bottom.

The seat retains what appeared to be its original woven matting, which is attached to drilled holes on the inside edge of the backrest bottom stretcher. This woven piece has been reattached to the backrest, but it is not very strongly connected, so it is not safe to put too much weight on it. The folding legs are hinged with iron pivot hinges, with pins fitted through elongated mounts. A footrest is fitted at the base. The apron of this footrest is elegantly drawn and turns fluidly into the short, curved legs, which terminate in a scrolled foot.