Pingfeng, the Hidden Beauty

An elegant Chinese Pingfeng (folding screen) is quite an ancient invention that is an essential part of the traditional Chinese furniture. Today it is back in vogue again for its distinctive Eastern elegance, as well as its practical function as a exotic furniture that act as a moving wall, dividing or adding a space, enchasing character, and defining style.   

Pingfeng was not a purely decorative piece of furniture in an old Chinese home. The screen, which would always be solid enough not to be seen through, would double as a thing of beauty and a hiding place.

In feudal China, the unmarried young woman of a rich family was not supposed to see or be seen by men other than her father, brothers or very close male cousins. When a potential suitor paid a visit, however, the daughter of the house might take a peek at him from a screen behind which she would be completely concealed.

Her father would discuss literature with the young man and ask him to compose an impromptu poem. If the composition of the poem - and the man's good looks - impressed the young woman and her father, she might agree to take him as a husband.

The earliest pingfeng was first appeared in China during the 7th century. These sophisticated pieces of furniture were made in wide range of sizes, from extremely large oversized folding screens that were used in spacious palaces, to miniature decorative screens that could comfortably fit on a tabletop.

Folding screens used as room dividers was constructed from several panels attached to each other. The most popular in the 7th century China room dividers were six or eight panels folding screens.

Chinese folding screens often feature dragon motif. The dragon is probably one of the most familiar Chinese motifs. It is a first of all animals, and a symbol of masculinity, light, growth and life-giving water. As a king of the animals it is also represent nobility and royalty. 

Beautiful male and female peacocks were also depicted on the panels of the folding screens. In ancient times the peacock was known to the Chinese only by reputation, but, as the empire extended southward into tropical climates, interest in this spectacularly colored bird exploded. According to legends that originated in India, these birds eat snakes, especially of the poisonous variety, can avert natural disasters, and are a symbol of immortality. Legendary combination of strength and beauty of the peacock led to its extreme popularity as a decorative subject.