Dress accessory, toggle, bamboo and lingzhi funguns, 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. In Chinese culture, bamboo is a symbol of long life and courage in adversity. The section of bamboo is straight and hollow which symbolises humility and fidelity.
This lingzhi fungus is also a traditional symbol of longevity in China. It coveys the idea 'May you live as long as you desire'. The lingzhi fungus plant was often depicted on toggles and elsewhere in Ru-yi form so that it not only conveys the idea of longevity but could also be used to serve as a pun element, conveying the Ru-yi phrase 'May you have great happiness as much as you desire'.
Morrison, Hedda and Alastair, Chinese Toggles: A little Known Folk Art., Arts of Asia, March/April 1986
Cammann, Schuyler, Chinese Belt Toggles, Oriental Art. New Series Vol.8 No. 2 Summer 1962
Cammann, Schuyler, Substance and Symbol in Chinese Toggles, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1962, London, pp.106-107, p.103.
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.