By Benjamin Cost
After a grueling day of withdrawing ingots from your gold vending machine while sipping on 1 million RMB cognac, it might feel nice to don your panda-fur PJs, and plunk down on a $4.6 million (over 29 million RMB!) bed.
The latest in China’s recent explosion of astronomically-expensive everyday items, this lavish lounger is currently on display in a mall in Xi’an and is clearly aimed at China’s rapidly-growing super-wealthy. But allegedly, the hand-carved bed is more than just another gaudy, overpriced hunk of furniture. Rather, it’s a gaudy, overpriced hunk of furniture with a rich cultural legacy, which means not just any yahoo with a wad of yuan will likely claim it:
Asking a staff member who the store expects to see buying such an expensive item, the reporter was told, “For one, it’ll be someone with strong purchasing power, and second, it’ll have to be a person with a considerable understanding of cultural heritage.” Strong purchasing power is obvious, considering its price tag, but pressing the salesperson about the cultural side, the reporter noted that the bed is constructed of Huanghuali wood from a thousand-year-old tree from Hainan province. A member of the rosewood family, Huanghuali — literally “yellow flowering pear” — is among the rarest and most prized woods in China, having been reserved for royalty in dynastic times.
The coveting of this wood has inevitably had an enormous toll on the Huanghuali tree population. Coinciding with the booming economy, rising demand for the pricey Huanghuali-crafted pieces has all but decimated Huanghuali forests on the mainland. Now, the trees are relegated to a few groves on Hainan Island. And naturally, due to its scarcity, Huanghuali wood costs have spiked dramatically, soaring from 20,000RMB only a decade ago to over 10 million RMB today.
Undeterred, increasingly wealthy Chinese businessman are fast gobbling up Huanghuali products, as well as cheaper Ming Dynasty replicas to adorn their living rooms and offices with.
But look on the bright side of the mattress. While their actions are environmentally detrimental, at least the purchaser of the $4.6 million bed will probably have some semblance of refined taste – which is more than we can say for the embodiment of conspicuousness who eventually acquires that infamous gold toilet.