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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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A set of Chinese elm open book shelves mid-20th century, the four graduated, open shelves,
Dec 02, 10:00 AM GMT
A set of Chinese elm open book shelves mid-20th century, the four graduated, open shelves,
by Martel Maides
Est: £500- £600
£4501 Bid
Chinese Republic Chinoiserie Papier Mache Shelves
Nov 30, 11:00 AM EST
Chinese Republic Chinoiserie Papier Mache Shelves
by Hill Auction Gallery
Est: $100- $1,000
$500 Bids
A VASE-SHAPED WOODEN PRESENTATION SHELF
Dec 07, 9:30 AM CET
A VASE-SHAPED WOODEN PRESENTATION SHELF
by Nagel Auction
Est: €600- €1,200
€6000 Bids
Chinese Cherry Wood Curio Shelf & Brass Glass Case
Dec 03, 10:00 AM MST
Chinese Cherry Wood Curio Shelf & Brass Glass Case
by EJ'S Auction & Appraisal
Est: $0- $0
$100 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Chinese Shelves & Bookcases


Nagel Auction

Nagel Auction

Martel Maides

Martel Maides

EJ'S Auction & Appraisal

EJ'S Auction & Appraisal

Hill Auction Gallery

Hill Auction Gallery