Mirror stands, taking their design from floor screens with fixed bases and inset panels, were placed on a lady's dressing table. The mirror would have stood leaning against the middle panel and would have been held up with the detachable carved U-shaped support. The drawers were used for storage of cosmetics and ornaments.
This stand displays several interesting animal motifs. Delicately carved in openwork, the central panel depicts the legend of the carp that swim against the Longmen rapids and emerge as dragons. This motif is a symbol of passing the imperial civil service examinations with distinction or of general scholarly eminence. A gate incised with the characters Yumen, the archaic name for Longmen, is carved into the lower part of the panel.
Each of the side panels is carved with a phoenix amidst peony flowers. Associated with feminine beauty and virtues, the mythical bird is an appropriate motif for mirror stands. The phoenix is believed to only appear in the world when peace and prosperity prevail and thus is aptly portrayed with the lotus flower, which symbolizes purity, harmony and fecundity.
Compare a similar example, formerly in the collection of the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, published by C. Evarts in 'The Classic of Lu Ban and Classical Chinese Furniture,' JCCFS, Winter 1993, p. 41, fig. 19, and in Wang Shixiang and Curtis Evarts. Masterpieces from the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, Chicago and San Francisco, 1995, p. 148, no. 70, and sold at Christie's, New York, 19 September 1996, lot 56. Another similar mirror stand is illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, Chinese Hardwood Furniture in Hawaiian Collections, Honolulu Academy of the Arts, 16 January - 14 February 1982, p. 64, no. 46. See, also, the very similar example, but carved with reticulated panels of auspicious characters amidst chilong, sold at Christie's New York, 16 - 17 September 2010, lot 1209. A fourth example, carved with the same design as the present stand and also carved with the Yumen gate, was sold at Christie's Los Angeles, Myth and Reality: Animals in Chinese Art, 7 May 1999, lot 93.