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Chinese Shelves & Bookcases

Traditional Chinese homes were not built with closet space, yet the Chinese people historically have always made it a practice to put away dishes, cloths, and clothing that were not for immediate use. This tendency led to a high and constant demand for cabinets, shelves, and bookcases to be used for storage. Shelving units were made of lacquered wood, and often featured intricate geometric patterns or decorative inlays to embellish the surface.

Bookcases were especially necessary due to the importance of writing, documenting, and painting on paper handscrolls. When these scrolls were not being used, they were rolled and put away into a bookshelf. Many different varieties of bookshelves were developed in order to keep all the scrolls accessible to scholars.


Quick Facts

  • During the Song Dynasty, the emperor commissioned the mass printing of Buddhist scriptures, which led to the invention of the revolving bookcase
  • Chinese bookcases originated as cabinets, but when the doors were discarded for ease of access, they became the open shelf bookcases we know today
  • Sometimes, Chinese bookcases or cabinets have a false back or door that might have lead to an escape route or a secret security room within a home

Recommended Items at Auction

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Vintage Chinese Wooden Bamboo Motif Display Shelf
Mar 09, 11:00 AM EST
Vintage Chinese Wooden Bamboo Motif Display Shelf
by Joshua Kodner
Est: $1,000- $1,500
$2500 Bids
Chinese Carved Mahogany Etagere, 20th c., H.- 42 in., W.- 36 in., D.- 13 1/2 in.
Mar 01, 10:00 AM CST
Chinese Carved Mahogany Etagere, 20th c., H.- 42 in., W.- 36 in., D.- 13 1/2 in.
by Crescent City Auction Gallery
Est: $300- $500
$1500 Bids
CHINESE CARVED HARDWOOD FOUR-TIER ETAGERE OR BOOKSHELF
Feb 25, 10:00 AM CST
CHINESE CARVED HARDWOOD FOUR-TIER ETAGERE OR BOOKSHELF
by Austin Auction Gallery
Est: $500- $800
$3000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Chinese Shelves & Bookcases


Austin Auction Gallery

Austin Auction Gallery

Crescent City Auction Gallery

Crescent City Auction Gallery

Joshua Kodner

Joshua Kodner