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Plum red lacquered Eight Immortal dining table

Origin: Shandong province

19th century

  • elm wood
  • 940mm wide x 940mm deep x 865mm high

Nobly titled an "Eight Immortal" table, in addition to dining, the square table was also used for writing, playing games and serving wine and tea. These tables were placed in the formal family room where guests were received, as well as being a centre for the family to come together for a meal or the simple enjoyment of each other's company.

In our modern home this compact square table can be moved from one room to the other as a stand-alone feature for items of inspiration and beauty, such as family photos and floral arrangements. The gracious proportions of the table enhances the items on display. At other times it can be simply used as an extra serving and eating table for a large gathering.

Underneath the table there are cross and transverse braces dovetailed into the tabletop for strength and stability. The original lacquer, derived from the sap of a certain species of tree, is well preserved. Its rich deep plum-red colour is from plant dyes and the lacquer bonds permanently with the timber, only wearing away in areas of high use.

The double circles on the aprons are symbols of union and perfection. The spandrels show clouds on geometric longevity carving representing a wish for good fortune and long life. The legs of the table finish in stylised inward horse hoof feet.

An important part of the design of this table is the S-curved brace or so-called "giant arm" brace. The braces are placed on each corner underneath the tabletop connecting to the upper end of each leg. They are load-bearing and mostly hidden away under the table top. A subtle exposure of the curved braces through openwork carved spandrels and openings on the aprons creates visual movement.