Altfield is pleased to exhibit an exquisite collection of cabinets, showcasing the artistic, decorative and functional aspects of these important storage pieces in Chinese culture.

Gui, cabinets in Chinese, the written character consists of the wood radical and a three-sided frame enclosing the character preciousness. Literally, cabinets of China had been made of wood and used for the containment of precious possessions. Their earliest form can be traced as far back as 433.B.C. All the discovered storage pieces were functional objects as well as works of art.

Chinese cabinets came in various shapes, sizes, forms, and designs to hold a variety of objects, often in pairs symbolizing double happiness. Featured in the exhibition are 18th and 19th century Chinese cabinets, which had different functions depending on their forms and their locations in the household. Scholar's tapered cabinets, book cabinets and book chests, mentioned the most in Chinese literature, were for holding bound books, scrolls, scholar's objects and implements in the studies. Compound Cabinets, round corner or square corner cabinets were for keeping garments in the bed chambers, storing silk clothes in the front courts or keeping money and valuable goods in shops. Chests and fur chests were commonly crafted out of camphor wood, naturally fragrant and insect repellent, for storage of clothes, furs, blankets, scrolls and valuables. Low cabinets placed at the foot of the bed were for holding spare blankets to stand by during the nights. Kitchen cabinets were for storing food, dishes and even live poultry. There were shrine cabinets for holding religious scripts and objects in temples and private worshipping rooms.

The forms of cabinets vary with regional styles. Many pieces from Shanxi were crafted still in the classic early Ming style during the 19th century, others with relief carvings characteristic of the early Northern regions or with wonderful lacquer finish and painting. Pieces from southern China such as Zhejiang province have refinement and subtle details while mainly maintaining their scholarly traditions and sometimes being influenced slightly by the Qing court's ornate taste. Guangdong province pieces were more decorative and ornate with carvings, with pieces from Fujian and Chaozhou being renowned for the gilt carving and hand painting on lacquer finish which became the inspiration for "Chinoiserie".

We invite you to view this collection of cabinets, to appreciate these functional works of art, excellent for today's d├ęcor, and to savour the culture, traditions and lifestyle of Chinese civilization.