Chinese stools enjoy a long history, the earliest evidence a bronze engraving of a stool from the Eastern Zhou period (770B.C. – 221B.C.). 2nd century records describe a folding stool the emperor admired. Receiving such high approval this novel item gained high status in a society accustomed to sitting on mats.
Chinese gradually adopted chairs and stools and by the 12th century people preferred sitting on chairs and stools to low mats. Status remained important so in formal settings senior people sat on chairs while junior household members sat on stools. Stools are the chameleon of Chinese furniture; if no chair is available the stool is the seat of honour while others stand. Stools are also called the “modest wanderer” used indoors and outdoors.
Stool design and shapes vary widely and this reflects how and where people used them. A common thread, however, is their sturdiness and intention to offer long-lasting service.
Today, Chinese stools remain one of the most convenient items to have in the home. Strong enough to sit on, they make excellent side tables in lounge and bedrooms.