Chairs of this design and proportions are discussed by Sarah Handler in Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Berkeley, 2001, p. 57, where she notes that the 15th-century carpenter’s manual Lu Ban jing [Classic of Lu Ban], refers to these chairs as chanyi, or meditation chairs, as their size was suitable for sitting and meditating in the lotus position. An illustration of a chanyi is reproduced by Wang Shixiang in '"Lu Ban jing jiangjia jing" jiaju tiaokuan chushi [An initial study on the descriptions of furniture in the Mirror of Craftsmanship and Guidelines by Lu Ban]', Palace Museum Journal, 1980, vol. 3, fig. 16, together with a line drawing of chanyi, fig. 17 (fig. 1).
The design appears to have evolved from chairs used by Buddhist monks from as early as the Tang dynasty, such as one depicted in the wall painting of Cave 196 at the Dunhuang cave complex in Gansu province, and illustrated ibid., fig. 4.2. Similar chairs are depicted in Ming dynasty paintings and woodblock illustrations, such as one in the 14th-century drama Pipa ji [Tale of the pipa] by the scholar Gao Ming (c.1305-1370) (fig. 2).
A slightly smaller chair of this design in the Haven collection was included in the exhibition Classical Chinese Huanghuali Furniture, University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2016, cat. no. 11; another is illustrated in Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, Chinese Furniture, New York, 1971, pl. 1; and a pair was sold at Christie’s New York, 2nd December 1986, lot 401. Compare also a pair of chairs of slightly larger proportions, but the legs with arched-shaped aprons, sold in our New York rooms, 20th March 2012, lot 142; and a chair with square-section members, formerly in the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, illustrated in Sarah Handler, op.cit., pl. 4.18, and sold at Christie’s New York, 19th September 1996, lot 53.
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