Antique Asian Apothecary Medicine Chest
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  1. #1
    us
    May 2011
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    Antique Asian Apothecary Medicine Chest

    Got this at the flea market today for $48 to keep for myself- i was wondering if anybody could help me get an age for this. It seems modern reproductions sell at Sears for $500, but the language characters on those are stamped, whereas mine are carved, would take a long time to do. Seems that originals also sell in the $500 range as well on Ebay. Any idea what language the characters are in, Korean, Chinese, Japanese? I will post more pics shortly as well of hardware used, in case it can be dated based on its construction. Any thoughts welcome, thanks guys!
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by FriscoT06; Aug 15, 2015 at 01:17 PM.

  2. #2
    us
    May 2011
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    Some drawers have been glued in the past, and the top, sides, and back of chest recently repainted in a stain, still smells. The drawer faces appear not recently repainted, but may have been clear lacquered over the original color at some point. Sorry if the picture in the first post wouldn't enlarge, it was just a thumbnail!
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  3. #3
    us
    May 2011
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    Some drawer photos in a second-
    RJ55 likes this.

  4. #4
    us
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    So what do you guys think? Thanks!
    coryg likes this.

  5. #5
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    Great find for $48, it's a great price and a very nice piece. I would keep it to store my finds that are not being displayed in the printers drawer that hangs on the wall in my garage. I can see it now, 1 drawer for gold (empty), one for silver jewelry, 1 for scouting items, 1 for old coins that I do not have a folder for, 1 for wheat pennies, 1 for tootsie toys, and so on.
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  6. #6
    stefen
    I could be wrong but it looks like its typical Japanese style by the cabinet top as opposed to other oriental origins.

    Japanese architecture and cabinetry employ tremendous amounts of religious symbolism, which the top signifies using the up-swept ends.

    The pulls with the bent over shanks are typical of Japanese cabinetry.

    Usually, the cabinet makers use internal (hidden) mortice & tenon or dovetail joinery.

    The embossed characters are used throughout most oriental languages...the meanings may differ by origin.

    I would assume each drawer is dedicated to a specific herb or medication such as ground Rhino horn, Ginsing, and the like.

    If someone was in the position to compare the characters using Japan, China, Korea and Vietnam interpretations, then that should point to the actual country of origin.

    My bets on Japan...
    Last edited by stefen; Aug 15, 2015 at 07:30 PM.
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  7. #7
    us
    May 2011
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loco-Digger View Post
    Great find for $48, it's a great price and a very nice piece. I would keep it to store my finds that are not being displayed in the printers drawer that hangs on the wall in my garage. I can see it now, 1 drawer for gold (empty), one for silver jewelry, 1 for scouting items, 1 for old coins that I do not have a folder for, 1 for wheat pennies, 1 for tootsie toys, and so on.
    My thinking exactly! Gold, silver, coins, fossils, native artifacts by location, colonial by location, knick-knacks, etc.
    Loco-Digger likes this.

  8. #8
    us
    May 2011
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    Quote Originally Posted by stefen View Post
    I could be wrong but it looks like its typical Japanese style by the cabinet top as opposed to other oriental origins.

    Japanese architecture and cabinetry employ tremendous amounts of religious symbolism, which the top signifies using the up-swept ends.

    The pulls with the bent over shanks are typical of Japanese cabinetry.

    Usually, the cabinet makers use internal (hidden) mortice & tenon or dovetail joinery.

    The embossed characters are used throughout most oriental languages...the meanings may differ by origin.

    I would assume each drawer is dedicated to a specific herb or medication such as ground Rhino horn, Ginsing, and the like.

    If someone was in the position to compare the characters using Japan, China, Korea and Vietnam interpretations, then that should point to the actual country of origin.

    My bets on Japan...
    Thanks! Very informative- i guess I will have to identify some of thee characters as either Kanji, Korean, Mandarin, etc. Any idea on a decade it may have been made in? I've seen some modern repros, 1930's/40's, 1870/80's, and late 1700's.

  9. #9
    us
    May 2011
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    I asked my Korean friend and he was able to identify the characters as old Chinese Kanji script! Now I can start translating which drawers held which herbs. I'll update again if I get a reliable date range.

  10. #10
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  11. #11
    mcl
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    It's Chinese, but due to the state of the pictures as well as the way the characters were carved on the drawers, it is very difficult for me to manage to decipher both of the characters on a given door. The only one that I am positive I transcribed correctly is the very bottom right small drawer (i.e., second to last row, last column), 三大, which Google translate says means "three". Without being able to decipher any other drawers it is difficult to tell what this means in context. In addition, I can't say for sure if each drawer is two words or just one (a character can stand alone as a word or combine to form a single word). The one that I did decipher seems to result in some of the same image search results whether it is put together or separated, so there is a chance that it means something to the effect of "big three" or "miraculous three".
    FriscoT06 likes this.

  12. #12
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    For sure you will recover your investment if you decide not to keep it. It will certainly enhance your favorite finds and keep them safe.
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  13. #13
    us
    May 2011
    Nottingham, MD
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    Thank you all! Mcl, I will upload another photo I have showing the front of the chest in better light and in a higher resolution shortly if the website will allow its size, thanks!

  14. #14
    us
    May 2011
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  15. #15
    us
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