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Oriental Arts - Chinese Chairs

Chinese first used chairs and stools during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD). By the end of the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 AD) all parts of society had moved away from the earlier mat level culture still prevalent in other Asian furniture to this higher level of seating. However, chairs were far less common than simple stools and reflected the status and authority of the user.

One of the earliest forms of Chinese chairs to appear were armchairs with protruding head rails, which can be seen in drawings from as early as the 6th century. By the Ming Dynasty, this style had been refined into the Official’s Hat armchair – a style that continued to be common throughout China for hundreds of years. This and the other most common type of Chinese chair – the horseshoe armchair – are included in our own range of furniture. Folding chairs also developed early on in Chinese history, and seem to have been used extensively during Ming times for travelling or for easy storage.

All types of chair would incorporate a footrest at the front to raise the sitter’s feet off the cold floor. Most Ming chairs also included soft seats made of matting, which was threaded through the frame. The same type of chair tended to be used for several different purposes, whether for dining, for sitting at a writing or painting table, or as a pair in a reception room.


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