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Chinese Chests

Chinese chests are usually made of hardwood with brass hinges and clasps, and consist of all storage containers – large or small – with a lid. Because they traditionally tried to keep most things out of sight when not in use, the Chinese didn't consider chests a necessity. Chinese chests or trunks were used primarily to store away seasonal clothing, but they have also been used to transport silk, tea, and porcelain wares from China to other countries.

Chests usually have one large compartment inside, but it is not unusual for a Chinese chest to come with smaller compartments to place tiny objects. In order to protect valuables, many chests contained a fake bottom, and for space efficiency, many could also be stacked. Some chests were decorated minimally to show off the wood grain of the object, while others were adorned with narratives or symbols.


Quick Facts

  • Traditionally, when a Chinese woman married, the bride’s parents would provide a dowry. This dowry would include new clothes presented in a wooden Chinese chest
  • Chinese chests in the Ming Dynasty were mostly made in the south from camphor trees, which naturally repel insects like moths
  • Before sea trade, Chinese people used camphor chests as a place to keep blankets, clothes, or linens, as well as food and papers they wanted stowed away

Recommended Items at Auction

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Rare Chinese Painted Elm Hand Carved Dowry Chest
Dec 02, 10:00 AM EST
Rare Chinese Painted Elm Hand Carved Dowry Chest
by Mebane Antique Auction
Est: $100- $10,000
$1103 Bids
Vintage Carved Wood Chinese Chest
Dec 03, 10:00 AM MST
Vintage Carved Wood Chinese Chest
by EJ'S Auction & Appraisal
Est: $0- $0
$202 Bids
Wonderful Antique Chinese Export Lacquer Small Jewel Chest on Stand
Dec 03, 10:00 AM EST
Wonderful Antique Chinese Export Lacquer Small Jewel Chest on Stand
by Neue Auctions
Est: $100- $300
$501 Bid
ANTIQUE CHINESE CARVED WOOD CHEST 19TH CENTURY
Dec 10, 12:00 PM EST
ANTIQUE CHINESE CARVED WOOD CHEST 19TH CENTURY
by RB Fine Arts
Est: $250- $500
$1000 Bids
Chinese Export Decorated Leather Camphorwood Trunk, 19th Century
Dec 03, 9:30 AM EST
Chinese Export Decorated Leather Camphorwood Trunk, 19th Century
by Rafael Osona Auctions
Est: $800- $1,200
$7000 Bids
Chinese Red Painted Nine Drawer Chest
Dec 03, 9:30 AM EST
Chinese Red Painted Nine Drawer Chest
by Rafael Osona Auctions
Est: $300- $500
$3000 Bids
Commode. China, Qing Dynasty, 19th century. Rosewood.
Dec 05, 12:45 PM CET
Commode. China, Qing Dynasty, 19th century. Rosewood.
by Setdart Auction House
Est: €800- €1,000
€4000 Bids
EINE POLYCHROM BEMALTE TRUHE
Dec 08, 10:00 AM CET
EINE POLYCHROM BEMALTE TRUHE
by Hargesheimer Kunstauktionen Düsseldorf
Est: €300- €600
€3000 Bids
Carved Chinese Patinated Chest
Dec 06, 6:00 PM AWST
Carved Chinese Patinated Chest
by McKenzies Auctioneers
Est: AUD150- AUD250
AUD1200 Bids
Set of Three Nested Chinese Red Trunks
Dec 03, 10:00 AM CST
Set of Three Nested Chinese Red Trunks
by New Orleans Auction Galleries
Est: $1,200- $1,800
$1,0000 Bids
19TH C CHINESE CAMPHORWOOD CAMPAIGN CHEST
Dec 03, 11:00 AM EST
19TH C CHINESE CAMPHORWOOD CAMPAIGN CHEST
by D. L. Straight Auctioneers
Est: $600- $900
$1000 Bids
PAIR 19TH-CENTURY CHINESE LACQUERED CHESTS
Dec 07, 10:00 AM GMT
PAIR 19TH-CENTURY CHINESE LACQUERED CHESTS
by Sheppards
Est: €800- €1,200
€4800 Bids
A POLYCHROME LOW-RELIEF COILED DRAGON CHEST
Dec 07, 9:30 AM CET
A POLYCHROME LOW-RELIEF COILED DRAGON CHEST
by Nagel Auction
Est: €1,200- €1,800
€1,2000 Bids
A POLYCHROME CHEST WITH ARROW-SHAPED METAL FITTINGS
Dec 07, 9:30 AM CET
A POLYCHROME CHEST WITH ARROW-SHAPED METAL FITTINGS
by Nagel Auction
Est: €800- €1,200
€8000 Bids
A SMALL CHEST WITH QUADRILOBED ENDLESS KNOT LOW RELIEF METAL FITTING
Dec 07, 9:30 AM CET
A SMALL CHEST WITH QUADRILOBED ENDLESS KNOT LOW RELIEF METAL FITTING
by Nagel Auction
Est: €500- €800
€5000 Bids
Two Chinese red leather bound lidded opera costume trunks/boxes. H 46cm, W 75cm
Dec 11, 3:00 PM AEDT
Two Chinese red leather bound lidded opera costume trunks/boxes. H 46cm, W 75cm
by Christian McCann Auctions
Est: AUD900- AUD1,350
AUD7000 Bids
Antique Chinese Export Brass Bound Camphorwood Campaign Trunk, 19th Century
Dec 03, 9:30 AM EST
Antique Chinese Export Brass Bound Camphorwood Campaign Trunk, 19th Century
by Rafael Osona Auctions
Est: $400- $600
$3000 Bids
Set of Three Nested Chinese Ebonized Trunks
Dec 03, 10:00 AM CST
Set of Three Nested Chinese Ebonized Trunks
by New Orleans Auction Galleries
Est: $1,200- $1,800
$1,0000 Bids
CARVED CHINESE CAMPHOR WOOD CHEST
Dec 18, 10:00 AM EST
CARVED CHINESE CAMPHOR WOOD CHEST
by White's Auctions
Est: $100- $5,000
$1000 Bids
A Carved Timber Chinese Chest
Dec 09, 6:00 PM AEDT
A Carved Timber Chinese Chest
by Theodore Bruce
Est: AUD30- AUD50
AUD150 Bids
Antique Chinese Chippendale Chinoiserie Chest
Dec 06, 12:00 PM EST
Antique Chinese Chippendale Chinoiserie Chest
by Greenwich Auction
Est: $100- $150
$500 Bids
pair of antique Chinese chests in lacquered wood e…
Dec 17, 11:00 AM CET
pair of antique Chinese chests in lacquered wood e…
by DVC
Est: €200- €300
€2000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Chinese Chests


Rafael Osona Auctions

Rafael Osona Auctions

Nagel Auction

Nagel Auction

Setdart Auction House

Setdart Auction House

New Orleans Auction Galleries

New Orleans Auction Galleries