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For a class, I worked in co-operation with the textile museum of Canada on this tiger hat object to uncover the mysteries behind it. As the creative portion of my assignment, I decided to interview myself on questions my research raised while wearing a similar animalistic hat (see photos attached). This was to put myself in the position of one of the children who would have worn this object. This interview reveals the link between the mother-child relationship created through the object as well as the hat's context in Chinese history. Without further ado, here is the result:
What does it mean to wear this hat?
It means protection, perhaps a mother-like figure watching over you.
So this mother-child relationship is important?
Yes. The hat embodies this mothering figure while linking the notions of traditional China to the wearer.
How does it link these notions of Traditional China?
Well for one, the hat has symbols of which represent the qualities that a mother would want their children to bear, for example, longevity and fertility. The hat also comes from a time of Confucian religious background reigning over China, so it follows these filial characteristics. The Cultural Revolution brought an end to the notion of this hat as all Chinese clothing moved towards a single piece of one colour representing the communist ideals. The grey robe was very common and well as red shirts and beige pants. Some people still wore hats but once again they were changed to a much simpler, one colour platform. The symbol of the tiger is a well-known animal that represents the traditional qualities such as dignity, courage, strength and military prowess. The link to tradition is associated with these qualities and that these hats were predominantly warn by males (or a male child).
So the mother’s relationship to the child is shown through the hat?
In a sense, that is correct. The hat acts as the bond between the mother and child. Most mothers would hand make these hats for their children adding symbols to the hat which they would want their child to represent and embody. Wearing them on this hat would in turn bless them and protect them with these qualities. The hat would be that symbol of protection to watch over the child when the mother could not, such as during the festivals for when these hats were most commonly warn, or when a child needed to walk down stairs, the eyes on the hat would literally be watching over the child to ensure their safety. Chinese mothers would tell the stories to their children of the creation of the hat. For example, they would explain how the hats were constructed, what each symbol meant and why for that child. The hat takes on a narrative quality of the mother-child relationship.
Talk more about the spirituality of the child in relation to the hat.
There are stories of mothers who place these hats on children with the protruding and bulging eyes as a means to literally watch over the child. It was believed that if the children were embodied, literally, by the animal, evil spirits would leave them alone. Evil spirits were thought only to attack humans, but animals as a part of nature were left unharmed. By transforming one’s child with the Tiger hat, the child is protected within the stature of the tiger and takes on the tiger’s qualities.
What caused the Tiger Hat to be put out of use in 1950s?
The Cultural Revolution and the Japanese occupation were both very large factors in the disappearance of this wonderful creation. The Japanese occupation during the Second World War forced China to adapt Japanese ways in any social aspect they could. Both the dramatic change in garments during the 1940s and 1950s in China, as well as the disappearance of the festival hat, were results of these reformations within China during the occupation. Clothing turned more modern and simple, making a huge statement against the former Confucian based attire such as festival hats and robes. The role of children was also reformed to pursuing education or involvement in the revolution after 1950s. This is also where the festivals where the hats were warn changed dramatically or ceased to exist entirely.
How did the role of children and childrearing change in correlation to the disappearance of the Chinese Festival Hat?
Previously, from the 1880s leading up to the Second World War, children have been raised following principal, filial piety and the five relations. The five relations are the relationship between you and each family member, beginning with the most important (grand)father to son and so forth. With the removal of the Confucian rules which had previously dictated how to raise a child (and there were a lot of them), childrearing was changed dramatically. This, however, was mostly dictated by the Japanese or the Red Army on how the child would be raised from then on, but the important point is that the festivals, and in turn the festival hats, were erased from tradition.
What does this mean in regards to the mother-child relationship the hat previously represented?
The relationship had weaker or removed links after the removal of the tiger hat and festivals as a common denominator. Children and parents became more separated during this time, especially if children were enlisted as part of the Young Intellectuals movement or the Down to the Countryside Movement which ordered graduated middle school students to move to the countryside away from their families so they don’t cause trouble.
If a festival hat was made for you, which animal would you choose and which of its qualities would you hope were transmitted to you?
If I were lucky enough to have a hat made for me, as the had is predominately made for males, I would want a hat similar to this one in a orange/red palate as red is the colour of luck in China and the orange is a closer representation to the natural tiger.