Tuesday, July 8, 2014

From the Collection: Children's Hats from SW China!

The Roommate & I will be on a big trip thru Finland & Iceland to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary (yes we are proud!), so the next few weeks I'll be sharing a few items From the Collection. I hope you enjoy these lovely examples of folk art.

Think about this: you're a parent in pre-science culture.  You see the high death rate of children, especially babies.  Even if you have a clue about clean water or immunizations, you have no way to put that knowledge into daily use.  So you might try other methods to ensure the health & success of your baby.  These children's hats, richly embroidered & decorated, are an attempt to ward off evil spirits, while also ensuring luck, wealth, happiness & longevity. 

The scary face would definitely give an evil spirit a fright, don't you think? 

This hat is from the Bai people, an ethnic minority in
SW China (we purchased this cap in Dali in 1994). 

The exquisite embroidery, along with the fake fur, and a little trapunto (for the nose), give this cap a distinct personality.  I imagine a little boy or girl would be thrilled to wear such a scary cap, the equivalent of the superhero capes Western children wear.  The row of Buddhas will bring luck and wealth.  

Lotus embroidered on corduroy
used for the back of the cap. 

The lotus flower (above) endows purity on the wearer while the bird may mean a messenger or a shaman.  I can guess, but really, will never know what the mother or grandmother or aunt or sister was thinking when she made this treasure for a new member of the family. 

I'm a librarian, so compelled to include a bit of reading in case you'd like to find out more:
Symbolism in Chinese Children's Hats & Baby Carriers (2007)
and even more reading (on the Bai & Miao, but other ethnic minorities, too)!

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