- Registration number
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- H: W: 85 mm L: 335 mm D: Circum:
Rectangular red cloth bag. At either end there is an embroidered green panel, 75 x 85mm, one featuring a grasshopper and the other a flower. On one side there is a seam in the red cloth which parts to allow insertion of flat items; on the other side is a yellow 'ABM Mission' tag stating: 'Purse'.
Constructed basically as a flat strip of cloth with a narrow slit on its reverse, item 9330 is intriguing because it is difficult to imagine what it was used for at first encounter. Its design suggests it is a purse, but this is ruled out by its size and flatness. Called a dalian, it is a waist accessory whose origins date to the Shang and Zhou dynasties when bags containing sundries or aromatic herbs were worn. Such small sundry bags – scent, fan, mirror, spectacle, key and scissor cases – were among the most common items produced by Chinese folk embroiderers. The wearing of such waist accessories became required and regulated by etiquette over time. A book on domestic conduct from the Han Dynasty for example, specified that men carry items that enabled him to serve his parents, such as fire-making tools, towels and awls. Women likewise, were expected to carry items such as sewing implements in small embroidered bags to help them serve their parents-in-law. These ornately embroidered and decorated accessories were much coveted during the Q’ing Dynasty (1644-1911), when complete sets of these waist accessories, known as the “The Official Nine” were worn both as fashion statements and status symbols. Besides the dalian, the other items were “a box for visiting cards, a spectacle case, a fan case, a watch case, two scent-bags, a thumb-ring box and a tobacco pouch.”*
Wang, Loretta H. The Chinese Purse: embroidered purses of the Ch’ing Dynasty. 2nd ed. Taiwan: Highlight International. 1991.
*Wang, Yarong. Chinese Folk Embroidery. London, GB: Thames and Hudson. 1987.
This Item of the Month was written by Museum Studies student Siew Eiselt.