Two Palembang Peranakan lacquerware bridal boxes and a tray
South Sumatra, Palembang, lacquer work by Chinese Peranakan artisans, mid 20th century
Wood, lacquer, and pigments, decorated with Chinese flower motifs such as camelia, chrysanthemum, jasmine and lotus. the tray with a qilin in the central circle.
H. approx. 41 x diam. approx. 35 cm (Lotus-shaped box)
H. approx. 28.5 x diam. approx. 41 cm (Box with flat lid)
Diam. 58 cm (Tray)
Lacquerware boxes like these two were destined for the Palembang Peranakan society, for the bridal room and were used to store the dowry. It was part of the furniture that was placed in the bridal room. Other pieces of the bridal furniture could be a lacquered cabinet, chest of drawer and a dressing table with mirror, all in lacquerware. These pieces are decorated with motifs referring to joy, happiness and fertility. The lotus-shaped box, ponjen, is very suitable for the bridal chamber as the lotus symbolizes purity, fertility and regeneration. The lotus flower rises from the mud and its seed head contains many seeds. A similar ponjen is in the collection of the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden (inv. no. 5641-2).
For centuries a large Peranakan Chinese community has lived in Palembang. Only twenty sailing days away from Guangdong in the south of China, it was a major port for Chinese vessels trading in pepper. In the 18th-century lacquerware was introduced in Palembang by Chinese artisans who migrated to this city to work at the royal court during the reign of Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin (1724-1757).