Myanmar

Focus on chairs & stools

Antique Chinese chairs are surprisingly at home in modern Western interiors. Thanks to its slender and elegant style they form a graceful addition to any interior style. Especially the “yoke back” chair and the “horse shoe” chair make a great match with contemporary interiors. And last but certainly not least, they bring a piece of history into the home. 

The style of the "yoke back" chairs – so called mostly in the West because of the resemblance of its top rail with a yoke for oxen – dates way back to about the 10th century, but extant chairs in this style date mostly from the late Ming (1368-1644) and early Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, being its most popular era. The plain simplicity of this style was especially popular among the elites of the late Ming era and makes an essential part of the Ming aesthetic. 

Chairs in general, typically had a solid back, making the wide center splat (vertical back support) of the yoke back a real innovation to chair designs. Its original purpose was for function and comfort, but often it is delicately carved or inlaid, making it a visual attribute as well. A pair of Chinese yoke back chairs sent as a gift to King Phillip II in the 16th century must have inspired chair designs of the Western world, for around a century later these wide back splats and elegant proportions appeared (ampong others) in the Queen Anne (or Georgian) style chairs in England and America.

 

The “horse shoe” chair or round-back armchair is actually an evolved version of the original curved armrest with three short legs that was used on the ground and later placed on platforms. The rounded backrest and downward sloping armrest made it an exceptionally comfortable support for the elbows and arms, and by the Ming dynasty it developed in one of the most graceful chair forms of traditional furtniture.


The in the West commonly used term “horse shoe" chair describes the resemblance of the form of the armrest with a horse shoe; the modern Chinese prefered term is “quanyi”. This round back exhibits the artistic aesthetic called ‘roundness’ or ‘wholeness’ (yuanhun). Along with the cubic formed base the chair is also a representation of the Chinese cosmological concept of ‘round heaven and square earth’ (tianyuan difang).

Traditional Chinese chairs, including the yoke back and horseshoe forms, are often attributed with a stretcher that supports the legs. These stretchers make its user step up and sit higher than the other, being an association with status and referring to a certain degree of authority or power. The Chinese term for this is “bubugao”, which means “step higher”, and was a commonly used symbolism in Western cultures as well. And as a further testament to their love of symmetry, most of these chairs came in sets of two.

The Silk Road Collection includes various pairs of Yoke Back chairs and Horse Shoe chairs. We have cleaned and restored the chairs where necessary, but essentially, we kept the look of the chairs as they are now. Often well-used and cared for over time, they symbolize a small part of Chinese culture and history.

The Silk Road Collection nurtures all decorations and furniture that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. Our chairs and stools, including these well known yoke back and horse shoe chairs, can be used in classic as well as modern interiors. With the right combination of different styles, one can create an individual space that adds to one's personality.

Take a look at our chairs & stools and feel free to contact us!

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