Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, probably 16th century
Carved black and red lacquer (tixi) on wood core
H x W x D: 14.2 x 51.7 x 28.9 cm (5 9/16 x 20 3/8 x 11 3/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of The Arthur M. Sackler Foundation
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Furniture and Furnishing, Lacquer


China, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), WWII-era provenance

?-to 1972
Sammy Yu Kuan Lee, President of Oriental House, Ltd., Tokyo, and Sammy Y. Lee & Wangs Company, Ltd., Hong Kong [1]

Dr. Arthur M. Sackler (1913-1987), New York, NY, purchased from Sammy Yu Kuan Lee, President of Oriental House, Ltd., Tokyo, and Sammy Y. Lee & Wangs Company, Ltd., Hong Kong [2]

Unidentified owner, method of transfer unknown [3]

Estate of Dr. Arthur M. Sackler, New York, NY [4]

Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, New York, NY, transferred from the Estate of Dr. Arthur M. Sackler [5]

From 1997
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, gift of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation


[1] See paper file from the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, copy in object file.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The object was on loan to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery between 1987 and 1997.

[4] See note 1.

[5] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Oriental House LTD
Sammy Y. Lee & Wangs Company, Ltd.
Sammy Yu Kuan Lee
Dr. Arthur M. Sackler 1913-1987
Arthur M. Sackler Foundation founded 1965


Due to the heavy use and inherent fragility of small, portable pieces of lacquered furniture, it is rare today to find examples from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The design seen here consists of scrollwork carved into a lacquer surface built up by hundreds of layers of lacquer, which are applied in alternating bands of red and black. The technique was developed in China and is called tixi, (better known in the West by the Japanese name guri). Classic tixi designs consist of trilobed "sword pommel" scrolls, which are featured on the center top of the small table, and wavy, or grasslike, scrolls seen as border designs.

This small table had several potential uses.  If set on top of a full size table, it may have functioned as a stand to elevate and offset a vase or incense burner. If used on a large seating platform or bed, it may have served as a miniature table to hold cups and sundry items. The size of the table is larger than most decorative stands, but smaller than many platforms (or kang) tables, which underscores the intention for this costly item to have multiple functions.

Its handsome sculptural form corresponds to full-scale furniture of the Ming dynasty, thus serving as a reminder that although the Ming was the apogee of classical hardwood furniture, lacquer examples were also prized.

Published References
  • Lee Yu-kuan. Oriental Lacquer Art., 1st ed. New York. p. 191.
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. pp. 234-235.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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