Washbasin Racks in Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China

The washbasin rack is a tool for washing and dressing.

The early Chinese washbasin rack was an attachment to the toilet table and was used more for dressing and making up than for washing. Its independent washing function had not yet been separated from other functions. With introduction of western soap technology, the purpose for washing became more and more explicit for the basin racks, requirement for water capacity grew and the washing function became a function independent to dressing and making up. The basin rack became prevalent in very household. The wood slot for soap and soap itself started evolving with the universal use of soaps.


The washbasin rack in early Qing Dynasty had no special place for soap. And basin is placed onto a plain board like a small table. On the front of the major board of the basin rack, there was no such place to hang towels as it was evolved later. Its function at that time was still more of a symbol of spirit, status and aesthetics. The washbasin rack embossed with long-mouth double-dragon in Dayong area of Hunan is an example, which adopts solid embossment in portraying a flying dragon, various vivid characters on the major board, and even two lions was used to hold the support of the basin. At that time the basin rack still had a vague function for washing. The washbasin rack in the period of Republic of China was totally different. A concave rack was designed to hold the basin, a wood slot to contain soap and the major board replaced by a towel holder rather than a pure decoration. The whole washbasin rack developed from a grand, solid and massive style to a practical, handy and simple one. The original multitude of decorative sculptures had only some simple carved lines left at the place where the dragon heads had been, reflecting its history and status.

In the latter period of the Republic of China, the specific washing tool function for the washbasin rack evolved again to a universal washing basin rack.

Collected from: Hunan, Jiangxi, Shanxi, Shandong, Hebei, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, etc.

Time span: Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China period, about 300 years' history.