Dress accessory, toggle, shape of marrows, stone, maker unknown, China, c. 1700-1940
Chinese belt toggles called 'zhuizi' are small carved ornaments used as counterweights on the cords of pipe bags and other small bags which were usually hung on men's belts.
Chinese clothes were not well provided with pockets, so bags which could be suspended from a belt were useful articles of attire. In order to fulfil its primary purpose of securing things to a belt, a toggle must have what the Chinese called a 'string eye', which could pass a string or cord.
Toggle wearing disappeared from China in the 1940s, when western style clothing replaced traditional clothing.
This dress toggle was made in China between 1700-1940. The fruits and marrows in Chinese traditional decoration relate to fertility. Marrows are a valuable food giving them added connotations of abundance. The vines and the stems add more to the significance of this toggle. The Chinese word for the vine of a gourd or melon plant is Wan, while the word for the stem or peduncle which holds the fruit itself to the vine is Dai and together they make the phrase Wan Dai, meaning "(for) ten thousand generations," a phrase that often serves to express wishes for long life, success , many children. etc.
Cammann, Schuyler, Substance and Symbol in Chinese Toggles, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1962, London, pp.114-115.
This toggle is part of a group that was collected in Peking by Hedda and Alastair Morrison between 1940 and 1942. Most of them were purchased from markets outside Chongwenmen Gate, and in Liulichang, a street known for its antique shops.