9864 AN ATTRACTIVE PAIR OF FUSHOUYI ARM CHAIRS Probably Shanxi. 19th Century. Measurements: Height: 40 1/2″ (101.6cm) Width 22 1/4″ (55.88cm) Depth: 18 1/8″ (45.72cm)
Of elm with areas of original red varnish. The top rail carved with scroll ends above a rectangular back splat inset with a rectangular panel flanked by openwork archaistic angular scrolls continuing to the similarly carved arms. The seat with a molded edge supported on four straight legs joined by a single front stretcher with a shaped front apron continuing down the front legs, a back stretcher, and double side stretchers.
This pair of Chinese armchairs takes the form of fushouyi, chairs developed during the late Qing dynasty. The innovative structure of fushouyi was unlike any other armchair from earlier periods and its form is essentially comprised of two main parts: “the lower section is a waisted stool, and the upper part has a screen-form back panel and armrests.”1 However, of Qing dynasty furniture, fushouyi were created with the most variations and, although similar, the details on such chairs are seldom identical.2
In the evolution of seating in China, mats and raised platforms gave way to stools and eventually chairs, and could indicate social rank and achievement. As a status symbol, fushouyi chairs were placed in prominent areas in the homes of the wealthy, such as the main hall. “They were often found in pairs and were arranged with a tea table in between.”3
The present chairs are made of elm, the most popular wood for furniture in Northern China, where over twenty species grow. It is a tough and fairly inflexible wood, but has a superior resistance to corrosion and humidity, and it straightforward to process and carve.4
The chairs are distinguished by their interesting geometrical appearance, particularly pronounced in the armrests, which are formed as components of the Chinese meander pattern.
1. Tian, Jiaqing. Classic Chinese Furniture of the Qing Dynasty. London: Philip Wilson, 1996. 51.
2. Ibid., 35.
3. Mazurkewich, Karen, and A C. Ong. Chinese Furniture: A Guide to Collecting Antiques. North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle, 2006. 70.
4. Zhang, Xiaoming. Chinese Furniture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. 38.