Cabinets of this type were likely to have been filled with books, scrolls, or paintings. To facilitate transport and to protect the traveling case from moisture or insects, the cabinet was raised on a fitted base and upright frame and would have been carried at either end of a long carrying pole. Consequently, the stress placed on the frame required a particularly strong construction, reinforced with inlaid hardware.
Compare a larger version of this bookcase, built without an upright carrying frame, from the Mr. and Mrs. Robert P. Piccus Collection, sold at Christie's New York, 18 September 1997, lot 75. See, also, a much taller huanghuali medicine cabinet (58 in.), in the collection of Dr. R. J. C. Hoeppli, illustrated by G. Ecke, Domestic Chinese Furniture, Rutland and Tokyo, 1962, p. 135, fig. 107, where Ecke illustrates the chest with the doors open revealing numerous drawers. On the present example, the placement of the bottom shelf suggests the presence of a drawer, which is now missing.
A very similar pair of huanghuali traveling bookcases, formerly from the collection of the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, was sold at Christie's New York, 19 September 1996, lot 17. See, also a slightly smaller traveling bookcase illustrated by R. Jacobsen, Classical Chinese Furniture in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, 1999, pp. 192-3, pl. 70. For a discussion of metal fittings on bookcases, see an article by Curtis Evarts, "Uniting Elegance and Utility: Metal Mounts on Chinese Furniture", JCCFS, Summer 1994, pp. 27-47.