Dress accessory, 'Attributes of a scholar', toggle, jade, 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 toggle is carved with four objects which are used to identify a classical Chinese scholar: Qin (a traditional Chinese musical instrument with seven strings), Qi (I-go), Shu (calligraphy, sometimes it also means book) and Hua (painting). They are the symbolic objects of traditional Chinese scholars, literary recreation and are considered to be the talents of a cultured person.
This toggle is made of jade which has always been highly valued in China. Medicinally, jade was credited with all kinds of miraculous powers, it is considered to be the symbol of longevity and is worn as a protective amulet. In addition the Chinese have treasured jade for its purity, translucency, variations in colour, its musical sound when tapped, and its highly polished tactile surface.
Cammann, Schuyler, Substance and Symbol in Chinese Toggles, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1962, London, pp.71-73.
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.