Artist/maker unknown, Chinese
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The scholar's study was one of the innermost chambers of a Chinese scholar-bureaucrat's residence. This example was acquired by the Museum in Beijing, where similar interiors may still be seen in the palaces of the former Forbidden City. Designed to be a contemplative setting away from official duties, the two side walls are lined with hinged, lacquered panels, each with silk-covered latticework at the top and delicately painted landscapes at the bottom.
The study is furnished in a style typical of the period. The hardwood (huanghuali) seen at the back left is of the "kneehole" type, long popular in China. It offered ample room for storing the scholar's books, brushes, and writing equipment. The long, narrow table at the right front was designed for painting or looking at scrolls.
The occupant of the study was most likely a highly ranked mandarin, or civil official, who had passed a series of difficult competitive examinations in the Chinese classics in order to attain his position. He was versed not only in the duties of his office but also in music, poetry, and the arts of calligraphy and painting, and was a connoisseur of art with a keen interest in collecting.
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