A Chinese-Australian bed
This is a late Qing dynasty (1839-1912) canopy bed. Canopy beds were often used by wealthier Chinese in the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing dynasties (1644-1912). They were particularly popular in humid southern China (the source of most early Chinese immigration to Australia). Mosquito nets could be hung inside them and air could circulate freely underneath. This style of bed gets its name from the word 拔步 (bábù in Mandarin and baht bouh in Cantonese) which means ‘to take a long step or a step up'.
Beds such as this one were generally given to the husband’s family by the bride’s family as part of her dowry, and then given by the husband’s family to the bride, becoming one of the few large items a married woman owned outright. There is no evidence, however, to suggest this bed was ever used in this way. The donors of this beautiful bed, Jill and Frank Jones, slept in it for around 40 years before donating it to the Museum. They purchased it from a Melbourne antiques dealer who bought it from Colin Self of Hobart, Tasmania.
The story goes that Colin bought it from the deceased estate of an old sea captain who was given it as a gift and brought it with him to Hobart when he retired. We don’t know the name of the sea captain but he is believed to have been involved in trade with Canton.