The present lot is a superb example of the highly successful combination of huanghuali and nanmu burl. This combination, popular in classical Chinese furniture construction, forms a pleasing aesthetic, with the lighter huanghuali providing an attractive contrast to the darker, swirled grain of the nanmu burl. Numerous examples in various forms where the combination of huanghuali and burl is used are documented. See C. Evarts, "From Ornate to Unadorned: A Study of a Group of Yokeback Chairs", Journal of the Classical Chinese Furniture Society, Spring, 1993, pp. 27-9 and 32, for a group of armchairs with burl-inset splats. Also see two 16th-17th century huanghuali tables with nanmu top panels sold in these rooms, 19 March 2008, lot 372, and 18 September 2003, lot 34. For an interesting discussion on burlwood and its use in Chinese furniture, see C. Evarts, "The Nature and Characteristics of Wood", Journal of the Classical Chinese Furniture Society, Spring 1992, pp. 38-40.
An unusual feature of the present lot is the incorporation of the double-gourd form, which is associated with a number of different auspicious wishes. Because natural gourds have many seeds, they have been regarded as symbols of extensive progeny. The pronunciation of the Chinese word for gourd, hulu, varies in different parts of China, and in some areas it is close to fulu - fu being blessings, and lu being an official salary - hence it is associated with good fortune and wealth.
Double-gourds are also one of the symbols of longevity. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that one of the Eight Daoist Immortals, Li Tieguai, is usually depicted carrying a double-gourd in which he carried medicines. In addition, gourds were believed to have the power to absorb all evil vapors, safe-guarding those who carried them.
The mate to the current cabinet was sold at Sotheby's, New York, 1 June 1994, lot 563, purchased by Nicholas Grindley, London and is now in a private collection.