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.
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.
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.
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.