Skip to contentSkip to navigation
Become a Member
Explore today's schedule
Visit MMFA for free by becoming a Member
Learn more
Back
Currently shown

Alcove Bed

Location

CHINA, ZHEJIANG OR JIANGSU PROVINCE

Era

Qing dynasty (1644-1911)

Title

Alcove Bed

Date

Late 19th-early 20th c.

Materials

Carved, lacquered and gilded wood

Dimensions

233 x 219 x 207 cm (approx.)

Credits

Gift of Yvonne Callaway Smith and Milo A. Smith, inv. 2009.84

Collection

Archeology and World Cultures

Until the establishment of the Republic in 1911, the canopy bed was the most important and symbolically imbued piece of furniture in a Chinese household. Usually part of the bride’s dowry and an important signifier of status, it was an intimate enclosure for pleasure at night and provided seating for socializing during the day. Because of the bed’s important role in the procreation of sons, the alcove’s overall surface decoration displays auspicious motifs. For example, the small four-character inscription on top of the entrance conveys wishes of prosperity to the generations to come (wu shi qi chang). Likewise, horizontal panels carved with scenes and motifs from Chinese drama, Daoist imagery and rebuses all allude to the themes of fertility, longevity and a happy union.

Add a touch of culture to your inbox
Subscribe to the Museum newsletter

Bourgie Hall Newsletter sign up

This website uses cookies in order to optimize your browsing experience and for promotional purposes. To learn more, please see our policy on the protection of personal Iinformation