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The Invisible World

Wishes for Children

Bag Zoomify
Wedding Charm Zoomify

Fertility is a mysterious bodily process, often misunderstood at times in human history. People have attributed fertility, or a lack thereof, to factors such as witchcraft or other extraordinary forces. The desire to produce children, and to protect them from harm while they are small, is the basis of countless rituals, charms and prayers.

About the Object

Object name: Bag
Place made: Chengdu, China
Date made: 1930-1942
Dimensions: L 16.5 cm x W 14.5 cm
Materials & Techniques: Silk and cotton, woven, sewn, embroidered with silk floss
Credit line: Gift of Grace Kaster
ID: T02.30.3a

Object name: Wedding Charm
Place made: Chengdu, China
Date made: 1930-1942
Dimensions: L 3.5 cm x W 2 cm x H 1 cm
Materials & Techniques: Cotton fluff, silk and glass, wrapped and sewn
Credit line: Gift of Grace Kaster
ID: T02.30.3b

This drawstring bag is part of a Chinese wedding outfit. Within the bag is a tiny figure made of cotton fluff, dressed in a scrap of silk and embellished with beads and a tassel. This little figure is a charm, likely put into the bag to symbolize the new union’s fertility.

Alternative Views

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Back

Inside

Inside

Oblique

Oblique

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Second Look

Macro

Macro

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Touchpoint View

Animation

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Audio Clip

Rustle of Silk

Silk, especially crisp silk taffeta, has a distinctive sound that is known as “scroop.” Click here to listen to it.

Credit: Audio produced by TMC

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Artifact Narrative

Chinese Wedding Traditions

During the 19th and 20th centuries in China, red was a popular colour for weddings, symbolizing summer, prosperity and luck. This bride’s tunic and trousers are embellished with auspicious symbols of butterflies and flowers, especially lotus blossoms to signify fertility. The outfit includes a bag, which contains the tiny charm in the shape of a baby. On the bag is a knot that symbolizes an “endless knot,” a sign for longevity. Using the traditional Chinese symbolic language, the maker has written good fortune into every part of the outfit, bag and charm to ensure the best possible start for the new couple.

Wedding Jacket
Wedding Trousers

Woman’s wedding jacket and trousers

Place made: Chengdu, China
Date made: 1930-1942
Dimensions: Jacket L 96 cm x W 152 cm; Trousers L 100 cm x W 58 cm
Materials & Techniques: Silk and cotton, woven, sewn, embroidered with silk floss and metal thread
Credits: Gift of Grace Kaster
ID: T02.30.1 and T02.30.2

Artifact Narrative

The Doll

Small replicas of children are used around the world as toys and as talismans. These Ghanian figures, made by Asante carvers, have round heads and stick bodies that represent the child one hopes to have. According to Asante legend, a woman named Akua was barren until a healer instructed her to carry and care for a doll as if it were a child. Villagers jeered, but her faith was rewarded with the birth of a daughter. Now, the doll is recognized all over Africa as a symbol of fertility, political empowerment and intellectual freedom. The dolls are mass-manufactured for export and domestic use.

Fertility Figures

Fertility Figures (akua'ba)

Place made: Ghana
People: Asante
Date made: c. 1980
Dimensions: L 18 cm x W 7 cm
Materials & Techniques: Wood, carved
Credits: Gift of Klaas Van Graft
ID: T95.0098a-e

Collection Connections

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Doll

Doll

ID*: T96.0201d

Doll

Doll

ID*: T01.15.4

Doll

Doll

ID*: T01.15.3