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When was Chair first invented in China?

From Zhang Yimou's epic movie "Hero", both Qin Shihuang and the assassin sat on the floor across each other in the Qin Court.

Apparently chair was not invented by that time.

Even according to historical book, chair was not invented in Early Han. Liu Bang used to sit on the floor with all his retainers to eat and drink and party.

That was why Confucian ritual was introduced to discipline these unruly retainers in Early Han.

But by the end of Later Han (about 400 years later at A.D. 250), chairs were widely used. According to the novel "Romance of Three Kingdoms" and CCTV-produced drama of the above novel, Zhuge Liang, Cao Cao, Zhao Yu,.......all sat on chairs in conference.

However, during the Taika Reform, the Japanese students learnt everything from Tang China except one thing -- Chair.

Chairs were hardly used in Japan even until as late as the Warring States period (15th -- Early 17th Century). Most powerful figures like Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugwa Ieyasu,....all didn't sit on chairs according to those NHK-produced dramas. Even the Japanese Emperor sat on the tatami floor in the palace in Kyoto.

Even funnier is that all those samurai generals dressed in heavy armour sat on small stools which could hardly fit their butts at the frontline tent as shown in Kurosawa's movie "Ran".

For Koreans, chairs should have been introduced as witnessed in their classical dramas like "Wang Guhn" which depicted events in the 10th Century.

However, in modern TV dramas, both Japanese and Korean TV dramas show that they still like to sit on the floor. In fact, nowadays many Japanese homes have an exclusive tatami rooms where everyone sits on the floor.

But in Taiwan, hardly anyone sits on the floor. It seems that even though Korea was colonized by Japan for a shorter time than Taiwan was, it is more susceptible to Japanese influence.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Ian, I visited the Shanghai Museum again the other day. The introduction at the Ming/Qing Furniture Exhibition Hall says that - "In the Northern and Southern Dynasties, the Chinese began to change the habit of kneeling or sitting cross-legged on a platform to sitting with legs pendant on a stool ("垂足坐"). This gave rise to furniture of level height."

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Chair sitting didn't become popular until the Song dynasty. It was first used during the Northern and Southern dynasties, but sitting on the floor was still the preferred norm. The Japanese who copied the Tang dynasty vigorously, did not find developed chairs (stools existed though). The chair mostly likely came from the Arab and Western world.

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I agree that Chair might have not been invented in China until the Northern and Southern Dynasties.

I recall that in those movies about Chinese Love Story – Liang/Zhu – all the students and teacher sat on the floor. Since the Love Story was said to happen in Jin Dynasty – the dynasty preceding Northern/Southern Dynasties – probably Chair had not been invented by that time.

The Chairs that were mentioned by the novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” was probably a careless mistake made by the author who was born in the Ming Dynasty.

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  • 3 weeks later...

At the Mancheng Han tombs (Hebei Province), the tomb contains a guest room for the deceased to entertain visitors. They all sat on the floor round a low table; it's been reconstructed inside the tomb so you get a good idea what it looked like.

This is Liu Sheng's tomb - major eastern lord during the Western Han period.

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