Dress accessory, toggle, in the form of a gourd-shaped bottle with silver mounts, symbol of fertility and good fortune, ivory / metal, maker unknown, China, c. 1700-1940 Ivory toggle in the form of a gourd shaped container, or bulbous like shell of a fruit, with carved patterns all over body, with metal ring at waist and nob at top. Toggles functioned as weights to counterbalance dress accessories such as tobacco pouches.
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 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, the antiques street.
Gift of Mr Alastair Morrison, 1992