The upper section of the throne appears to consist of sections of zitan, while the platform is zitan-clad softwood. This combination of different materials was not uncommon, as discussed by Tian Jiaqing, Notable Features of Main Schools of Ming and Qing Furniture, Hong Kong, 2001, pp. 111 - 14, where he states that in order to reduce the weight of large pieces of furniture and the deformation caused by changing moisture content, nanmu would be used for the frame and zitan would be used to clad it.
As discussed by John C. Ferguson in Survey of Chinese Art, Shanghai, 1940, there were more than one hundred throne chairs in the Palace. In addition, as discussed by Wan Yi, Wang Shuqing and Lu Yanzhen, Daily Life in the Forbidden City, Hong Kong, 1988, pl. 196, in the early Qianlong period, the emperor decreed that a screen and a throne be placed in each of the twelve eastern and western palaces, and repeated changes would be made in the following reigns.
Compare with a high-waisted, 'S'-shaped-legged throne with five screens also illustrated by Tian Jiaqing, op. cit., pp. 54 - 61, which also has richly carved dragons on the back and side railings. The high-relief carving can also be seen in a pair of tea tables from the 18th 19th century, as illustrated in Splendor of Style: Classical Chinese Furniture from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, National Museum of History, Beijing, 1999, p. 155.
Other examples of large pieces of furniture carved in such a manner include a fine and rare imperial zitan rectangular throne sold Christie's, London, 7 June 1993, lot 141, which is also elaborately and crisply carved in high relief with five-clawed dragons, and another sold Christie's, New York, 28 June 1991, lot 163, a pair of unusual darkwood throne chairs, possibly zitan, also deeply carved but with a design of a profusion of winged Buddhistic lions amongst formal lotus and bats.
Other examples of large pieces of furniture carved from different materials but in such a manner include a red sandalwood throne decorated with dragon and cloud patterns carved in lacquer illustrated in Furniture of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, vol. II, Hong Kong, 2002, p. 23, and another mahogany bed, decorated with carvings of nine dragons, in the same publication, p. 12. However, the present example differs in that the carving of stylized clouds continues along the waist down to the apron. A sandalwood couch bed with a clouds-and-dragon motif is illustrated in The Art of Ch'ing Dynasty Furniture, National Museum of Taipei, 1985, p. 123.