Height: 5 3/8 inches, 13.6 cm
Length: 14 1/4 inches, 36.3 cm
Width: 8 inches, 20.6 cm

Huanghuali metal-mounted document box

China, Qing dynasty, 17th-18th century

A huanghuali metal-mounted document box, the well-figured rectangular top panel above straight sides ending in a beaded edge, repeated on the lower section. The four top corners are adorned with ruyi-form mounts above rectangular metal straps to the side corners. The cover is attached to the box with hinges on the back. The side panels of the box are mounted with a pair of bail handles, while the front side is mounted with a circular lockplate with ruyi-form hasp. The wood has acquired a warm amber tone and smooth surface.

Huanghuali boxes of the present type were used by the literati for storing and carrying important documents and papers. Undecorated wood was considered extremely refined and expressed an aesthetic of restraint and erudition and was evocative of the natural world once in the scholar’s studio.[1] Boxes with their original brass mounts are rare, as often, when damaged, these would be removed or replaced. Compare a very similar document box, dating from the same period, illustrated in R.P. Piccus.[2]

Nicholas Grindley, London, 1991
Formerly in a private collection, Chicago

  1. Piccus, R. P. et al., Wood from the Scholar’s Table: Chinese Hardwood Carvings, Hong Kong 1984, pp 9-11, 20
  2. Piccus, R. P. et al., op. cit., pl. 53, pp 94-95