Dress accessory, toggle, conch shell, 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. A conch shell is a common form for toggles in the Tibetan area, sometimes seen among the Tibetans of Northern Yunnan and West Sichuan. In addition to their value as rarities in that inland region, they enjoy a special veneration from the Mongols and Tibetans as being important protective charms, the conch is especially sacred in Lamaism, the special form of Buddhism.
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.46-47
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.