Lotus-shaped lacquerware boxes like these were placed in the Palembang bridal chamber and were used to store the dowry. It was one of a pair, and part of the furniture that was placed in a Palembang bridal room. Other pieces of the bridal furniture were lacquered cabinets, chests of drawers, a small pyramid-shaped chest of drawers, and a dressing table with mirror. Apart from displaying wealth and status, they were all decorated with auspicious motifs, referring to joy, happiness, and fertility. For Chinese it is important to have a son, in order to perpetuate the family name and to take care of the ancestral altar and Chinese rituals. As for this lacquerware box its shape of a lotus is suitable for the bridal chamber, as it symbolizes purity, since the lotus rises from the mud. It also represents fertility and regeneration, as the seed head of this flower contains many seeds. The box is painted with many other Chinese motifs: the flowers of the four seasons, fish, birds, and deer. Lacquerware in Palembang was introduced by Chinese artisans who migrated to this city to work at the royal court during the reign of Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin I (1724-1757) who had several wives of Chinese descent.
Palembang, Sumatra; first half 20th century; wood, lacquer, pigments