Ty & Kiyoko Heineken, Tansu: traditional Japanese cabinetry, Weatherhill 2004
Comparisons cannot easily be made with the great decorative furniture traditions of Europe and China. Japanese chests are not stationary furniture. Rather, they can accurately be described as mobile cabinetry, used by the individual to keep personal possessions and clothing outside of the season for which they were intended, by the merchant to store important records and valuables, and by the family for ready access to objects of daily use. Tansu were kept in storehouses adjacent to homes and businesses, in storage rooms, on the raised area of a shop, and on some coastal ships for the owner or captain. With only a few exceptions, they were not visible in the house except at certain times and in specific situations. It is perhaps due to the fact that tansu have been judged according to the same criteria as conventional furniture that they have not until recently begun to gain international recognition.
The literal meaning of tansu(箪笥) is a box or a food container made of bamboo.