18th C Chinese Zitan Wood Imperial Throne Screen
A large 5 panel throne screen made from Zitan wood. This throne was possibly given as a wedding presentation for someone of high imperial status. The use of Zitan for furniture was especially favored by the Ming and Qing Imperial court. The use of Zitan was scrupulously monitored and restricted to the palace workshops. The Zitan panels are all woven with interlocking “T” patterns. Above the top of all panels are heavily carved with Stylized patterns and Angular scrolls. The base of the Imperial Screen is angular scroll works and bats, while the back of the screen is carved in flowers and vase. The central panel is embellished with a cloisonné double gourd, ribboned vessel. The gourd is popular as a symbol to ward off evil spirits and disease. The Chinese word for gourd (hulu ??) sounds the same as fulu (??) which means "happiness and rank (as in attaining a high government office)". Because the gourd contains many seeds, the Chinese associate the gourd with "10,000 children". In ancient China, parents hoped for many sons and grandsons so the gourd became an important symbol for a family with many children. Above the gourd is a pair of goldfish. A pair of fish (shuang yu ??), represent happiness in marriage, while goldfish (jinyu ??) is a symbol for wealth. Surrounding the goldfish are upside down bats among clouds. A picture of a bat (fu ?) means for "good fortune" or happiness (fu ?) A bat that is flying upside down means "happiness has arrived". Additionally, "a bat descending from the sky" (fuzi tianlai ????) sounds exactly like "happiness descends from heaven" (fuzi tianlai ????)., while clouds, (xiangyun ??), represent the heavens and also "good luck”. The central right Inner panel is embellished with a bird on rockwork with flowers and bamboo branches with a single butterfly. Bamboo (zhu ?) means “to wish" or "to congratulate" (zhu ?) The butterfly is a symbol of long life because the second character in butterfly (hudie ??). The central right outer panel is embellished with 2 geese among lotus flowers and leaves on a river embankment. A goose (?) is a symbol of matrimonial messages, married bliss, and resourcefulness. Lotus has the hidden meaning of "continuous harmony” The central inner left panel depicts a bird on rockwork and chrysanthemums. Chrysanthemum (ju ?) is a symbol for "forever" (yongjiu ??), and thus meaning "longevity" The outer left panel depicts a set of cranes among pine trees. The crane (he ?) is believed by the Chinese to live to a very old age and therefore is a symbol of longevity. The bottom of the Imperial Zitan screen are panels of sacred fungus Lingzhi (??), This is a sacred fungus of immortality. The lingzhi do not decay like other fungus but instead become woody and thus can survive for a long time. For this reason, it has become associated with longevity. Surrounding the lingzhi are characters of good luck and fortune. Measures 133" length x 108" height x 24" depth (337.8cm x 274.3cm x 60.9cm).