KOREAN RICE CHEST, HEART OF THE HOME (뒤주)

There is not the slightest trace of decoration on the rice chest. Its occasional iron or brass fitting is not meant to make it more attractive, these fittings enhance the chests qualities of gravity and durability.

The structure of the rice chest, constructed from solid piece of pine tree, is depicted in bold, straight lines. The ordinary rice chest is usually designed to store one sack of rice, but even when there is not a grain of rice in it one does not think of it as some vacant shell.

It always looks chock full. There are always those four pillars at its corners which seem to be holding up a massive roof, as if this were some imposing religious edifice. These squat, solid heavy legs descend from the chest like the roots of a great tree.

While any other household item can be dismantled and moved around, the rice chest, no matter how little is inside, is of ponderous weight which anchors it firmly to one spot .Any rice chest is the one source of grain for the household, and where it sits is the symbolic center of household affairs.

RICE CHEST.
Elm wood.
H. 101.2cm, W. 106.8cm, D. 71.9cm.
Collection of the National Museum of Korea.

We associate the rice chest with the housewife, lifting open that heavy lid so many times from the morning till night in providing for the family’s nourishment. This mother of the old days wore no makeup or jewelry but, in her quiet dignity, had every strand of hair up neatly in place. Her heart was filled to bursting with love for her family, and on that heart she kept an iron lock so that none of this love would be squandered. One sees in the heavy lock on the rice chest the same husbanding of nourishment against times of want.

This article was found in the book THINGS KOREAN from O Young Lee. Charles E Tuttle Company. First edition 1999.

The rice chest was probably the most common piece of furniture in Korean houses and could be found all over the peninsula. The average size was approximately H. 80-85cm, W. 90-100cm, D. 50-60cm. Larger pieces, sometimes with a bottom compartment and doors, were used by groups such as temples. Due to their rarity, they became sought-after collector’s items.


KITCHEN CHEST WITH RICE STORAGE COMPARTMENT – TUIJI-JANG.
H. 121 cm, W. 116 cm, D. 57 cm. Mid to late 19th Century.
Pine wood, iron fittings, oil finish Ch’ungcheong Province, Korea.

Collection “ANTIKASIA“.
KITCHEN CHEST WITH RICE STORAGE COMPARTMENT – TUIJI-JANG.
Pine wood, Mid 19th century.
RICE CHEST – TUIJI. Pine wood. Southern part of the peninsula. Early to mid 19th century. Private collection.
RICE CHEST – TUIJI. Pine wood, iron fittings.
Late 19th – early 20th century. H. 58,2cm, W. 57,8cm, D. 42cm.
Collection National Museum of Korea.
Various Rice chests at the Korean Furniture Museum in Seoul Korea. Large size with bottom doors were used by large communities. standard size for rice and small size for beans. Collection of the Korean Furniture Museum in Korea.

For the past 15 years, a large number of rice chests have been restored and their designs adapted for modern usage. Due to the poor condition in which these pieces were found, their sizes were modified to make them shorter and repurposed as coffee tables (approximately H. 40-45cm). The initial front panel was often removed and replaced with doors, some of which featured lattice designs.

LOW RICE CHEST.
Red pine wood. Top & Sides opening. This chest has been modified. Dimension reduce (height) and new doors added.
H. 52cm, L. 105cm, D. 65cm.
Modified rice chest. Rebuild lower to be used as a coffee table.

Modified rice chest. The front of this chest has been modified to make it more practical for a modern use. Doors and bottom drawers are new.
This large rice chest has been restored and its design modified. The front panel was opened and a Bandaji style opening was built with iron fittings and metalwork from Cholla Do province. Only the top lock plate was originally on the chest.

The wooden chest (photo below) was traditionally utilized for storing grains. It features legs crafted from logs, planks inserted between the four legs and the base, and two boards affixed on top. The upper part is designed to open for pouring and scooping grains. The top board consists of a pair of panels, with the rear one fixed in place and the front one serving as a flap to open and close. A metal ornament is attached to the front panel to accommodate a lock. In earlier times, the size of a wooden rice chest was indicative of the economic status of the household.

Rice chest. Pine boards, elm wood front panel.
Iron fittings. Early 20th century.
Rice chest in elm wood opening by a half flap in the upper part, iron fittings. 20th century
Height. 73 cm – Width. 87 cm – Depth. 60 cm

COLLECTIONS IN KOREA.

Rice chest. H. 106cm, W. 93,5cm, D. 54,5cm. Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
Korean rice chest. H. 84cm, W. 73cm, D. 61cm.
Collection: Bupyeong History Museum, Korea.
Korean rice chest. H. 94cm, W. 86cm, D. 63cm.
Collection: Bupyeong History Museum, Korea.
Korean rice chest. Collection: Hwacheon Folk Museum, Korea.
Korean rice chest. H. 94,5cm, W. 94cm, D. 58cm.
Collection: Sangju Museum, Korea.
Korean rice chest. H. 62,3cm W. 69,3cm, D. 49,4cm. Collection: Yecheon Museum, Korea.
Rice chest. H. 84,5cm, W. 90cm, D. 59cm.
Collection: Gimhae Hallym Museum, Korea.
Korean rice chest. H. 92cm, W. 111cm, D. 73cm.
Collection: Daegu University Central Museum, Korea.
Rice chest with bottom compartment. Collection: Hongik University Museum, Korea.
Rice chest. Pine wood, iron fittings. H. 103,5cm, W. 101cm, D. 57cm. Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
Rice chest. Red pine wood. H. 106cm, W. 93,5cm, D. 54,5cm. Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *