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The Fabricated World

Celebrations

Festival hat Zoomify

Festivals and special occasions give communities a chance to gather, exchange news and renew their values and beliefs. The presence of special textiles is often of key importance to a specific celebration, and many cultures develop their own versions of highly embellished and expertly finished textiles.

About the Object

Object name: Festival Hat
Place made: China
People: Han
Date made: 1880-1940
Dimensions: H 22 cm x 16 cm diameter
Materials & Techniques: Silk, woven and embroidered with silk and metal thread, with glass beads, paper, wire, India ink
Credit line: Gift of Fred Braida
ID: T88.0688

Chinese children living under Imperial rule often wore lovingly constructed and detailed head coverings. The one shown here is a boy’s festival hat for special occasions. Shaped like a crown, the hat is topped by a figure holding an animal that may be a tiny hare, which symbolizes longevity.

Alternative Views

Oblique

Oblique

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Side

Oblique

Oblique

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Back

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Top

Inside

Inside

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Second Look

Macro

Macro

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Animation

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Audio Clip

The place of sons in traditional Chinese society

Listen to TMC staff member Nataly Ji talk about the place of sons in traditional Chinese society.

Credit: Audio produced by TMC

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Related Image

Grandson with Grandmother in North China

The place of sons in traditional Chinese society

Image title: Grandson with Grandmother in North China
Credit: Image Courtesy of Thomas Peng

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Transcript

For centuries, male children held the preferred position in the Chinese family. Sons were considered more valuable than daughters because boys continued the family’s lineage and improved its standing in the community. Girls, on the other hand, were seen as a drain on the family because they had to be fed, raised and provided with a dowry. Because of this viewpoint, most infancy and childhood rituals were directed solely to the males. The motif of “one hundred boys” was very popular in Chinese decorative art; boys were often depicted playing and dancing, wearing scholars’ caps and accompanied by symbols of prosperity such as dragons and bats.

Artifact Narrative

Animal symbols

In earlier times, child mortality in China was high, so the clothes of infants and children were adorned with symbols of protection. Most of these symbols were animals such as the tiger, whose protective power lay in its fierceness; others, including the butterfly, symbolized desirable qualities such as longevity. Plants and flowers also had symbolic meanings; the lotus flower signified fertility and the peony, prosperity. The qualities symbolized by animals and plants were often associated with sound; for example, the Chinese words for “bat” and “good luck” sound alike, so a bat is a symbol of good luck. These symbols were therefore impossible to decipher unless one understood Chinese vocabulary.

Bib

Bib

Place made: China
Date made: 1880-1899
Dimensions: L 33 cm x W 31.5 cm
Materials & Techniques: Silk and cotton, woven, padded and embroidered with silk and metal thread
Credits: Gift of Fred Braida
ID: T88.0363

Artifact Narrative

Head coverings

Like many people throughout the world, the Chinese consider the head an important part of the body. It is often covered for warmth, but also for protection. Several types of head coverings were worn during the course of a traditional Chinese childhood. While very young, a boy would often wear a hat in the shape of a guardian animal, especially the tiger. The hope was that the tiger would ward off evil from the child, but also that the hat would transmit the tiger’s strength to the child. Tiger hats were often created by makers who had never seen an actual tiger.

Festival hat

Festival hat

Place made: Shanxi, China
People: Han
Date made: 1880-1940
Dimensions: H 11 cm x 15 cm diameter
Materials & Techniques: Silk, woven and embroidered with silk and metal thread, with paper, cardboard and wire
Credits: Gift of Fred Braida
ID: T85.0701

Collection Connections

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Festival hat

Festival hat

ID*: T86.0564

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Festival hat

ID*: T86.0618

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ID*: T90.0167