In the painting Bunian Tu, also called Emperor Taizong Receiving the Tibetan Envoy, Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty sits on the imperial sedan called bu nian supported by several carriers. Others seeing to the emperor’s comfort hold large fans and an umbrella next to the sedan carriers.
Generally, the number of carriers and the material and size of the sedan can indicate the status of the user. Sixteen carriers in red clothes carry the imperial sedan, showcasing how an emperor in the Qing Dynasty worshiped heaven.
The sedan chair was a traditional vehicle in ancient China. The earliest sedan can be traced back to 4,000 years ago. In different ages, it had different names, like jian yu (shoulder carriage), mian jiao (sleeping sedan) and nuan jiao (warm sedan).
The sedans familiar to modern people originated from nuan jiao in the Ming and Qing dynasties. The sedan body is fixed in a wooden rectangular frame with two long log poles. The top and four sides of the seat are enclosed with curtains. One side can be rolled up and there is a small window on each side. A chair is placed inside the enclosed space. The ancient sedan can be divided into two types: guan jiao (official sedan) and min jiao (civilian sedan).
In the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the sedan chair was more common than in of any other period. From the painting Along the River During the Qingming Festival, we can see there were many sedan chairs in the streets of North Song Dynasty.
The bridal sedan is the core of the traditional wedding. The bride sits in the sedan and is carried from her mother's home to her husband' home.
The guan jiao was graded by the status of the officials. There were sedan chairs carried by four persons or eight persons. The civilian sedan chair was often carried by two persons. At that time, a carrier was a special career. Only after training could they carry the sedan smoothly.
There is a kind of civilian sedan called hua jiao (bridal sedan) used in a traditional Chinese wedding. The bridal sedan is wrapped in silk curtains with auspicious embroidery. The wedding sedan is either carried by four or eight people and is accompanied by a group of people who play folk music.
The sedan chair has been phased out for its lack of efficiency and high cost. As a traditional custom, only the bridal sedan has been preserved.
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