Chinese furniture: Corner Leg Construction
Corner-leg construction can be divided into 'waisted' and 'simianping' (literally flush-sided) styles. The corner-leg form is self-descriptive with legs generally set flush to the corners of the top frame. The legs can be of straight, c-curved, or cabriole style; they typically terminate with some a horsehoof or variation of ruyi -shaped motif, animal claws, or scrolled foot.
Furniture of 'waisted' style retains architectural characteristics of the classical Greek pedestal, which migrated eastward to Gandhara where, as a dignified support, it became associated with the seat of Buddha. As Buddhism spread into China, so did the classical pedestal form. Early tables of 'high-waisted' form tended to be used for religious or ceremonial purposes. By the late Ming period, waisted furniture had become incorporated into the common vernacular of furniture design.
Early furniture of this style commonly required intermediate or base stretchers for reinforcement, and decorative taohuan panels were fitted to the 'high-waist' section. During the late Ming period, the development of sophisticated joints with dovetail keys permitted the abandonment of supplementary braces and stretchers. The waist section can be various design. Sometimes it is one piece with the apron as illustrated here; sometimes it is a separately joined to the apron with dovetail wedges from the back; alternatively, it may be comprised of early-style taohuan panels. The use of supplementary giant's arm braces, humpback stretchers, or decorative spandrels is also common to cornerleg furniture.
Simianping forms likely developed from early box-style constructions, whose use as tables and platforms are evident in Tang period paintings. Tables, beds, and stools of minimalistic, simianping-style were produced as early as the Song dynasty, and remained popular throughout the Ming dynasty. Such flush-sided tables that could be placed side-by-side were also convenient for creating large banquet arrangements. The configuration of simianping corner joints differ from those of waisted construction because of the greater apron thickness. In this variation, long tenons are shaped onto the leg members penetrate through the aprons and into the seat frame or table top.