The present pair of huanghuali stands was likely used as incense stands (fangxiangji), and display elegant and attractive proportions, rivalling the objects which they would have been used to support. For a complete discussion on stands, their origins and uses, see S. Handler, Austere Luminosity of Classical Chinese Furniture, Berkeley, 2001, pp. 295-302. On pp. 298-9, the author illustrates two huanghuali incense stands of related, though rounded form with five legs, nos. 17.4 and 17.6, where both are dated to the 17th century.
Perhaps the most unusual feature seen on the present pair of incense stands is the use of a drawer hidden within the aprons. While this is not a common feature in incense stands, it would not be at all surprising that stands designated for the use of censers, vases and other incense burning vessels would have such drawers to hold not only incense, but incense tools and accoutrements. On stands such as the present pair, it would be expected that the drawer be hidden or incorporated into the design so that it would not interfere with the simple and elegant lines.
Numerous examples of incense stands in a multitude of forms are known, and several can be found in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - Furniture of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (II), Hong Kong, 2002, pp. 167-81, nos. 149-163. For examples of how these incense stands would be used in-situ in the Palace, see Ming Qing Gong Jia Ju Da Guan, 2006, pp. 668-9, fig. 774, p. 681, fig. 778, and p. 685, figs. 780-1.