This handsome basket exhibits the exceptional workmanship and detailing that was given to both useful and ornamental objects by Chinese craftsmen. Baskets like these are commonly called wedding baskets but they are actually betrothal baskets. The two lidded compartments, finely woven of rattan, were used to transport gifts such as tea sets, linens, incense, candles and snacks and beverages.
The frame is dark reddish brown bamboo, the two sides beautifully carved with auspicious symbols and fastened with brass circlets. They form "feet" at the bottom and a stationary handle at the top, which can be used to carry the basket when it is filled and quite heavy. The wooden handle is surmounted by a heavy hand-wrought brass carrying handle set on an ornamental back plate pierced with symbols. The rattan portion of the topmost lid was woven in two colors to form a shòu character, symbol of longevity, wishing long life to the betrothed couple. There are also two small feet that support the basket, which is 20 1/2 inches tall to the top of the bamboo handle and about 16 inches across including the side supports. The basket weighs a sturdy 7 pounds, 4 ounces.
This example has seen use and shows obvious age, having been made in the latter part of the 1800's in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). The rattan basketry is rubbed along the sides from carrying, so there are areas that are lighter in color. The brass has developed a darkened patina and there is minor chipping along the bottom edges and on the feet. As is common with Chinese lidded baskets, the most wear is to the rim of the lid, where there is some loss of the bamboo edge (pictured). Overall, the basket is in very good condition. It displays beautifully and is large enough to be used as a side table, as well as a fabulous wedding gift.