The Powerhouse acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the ancestral homelands upon which our museums are situated. We respect their Elders, past, present and future and recognise their continuous connection to Country.
92/613 Dress accessory, toggle, butterfly, ivory, China, c. 1700-1940. Click to enlarge.

Dress toggle made in China

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 …


Object No.


Object Statement

Dress accessory, toggle, butterfly, ivory, China, c. 1700-1940

Physical Description

Dress accessory, toggle, butterfly, ivory, China, c. 1700-1940

Honey coloured ivory. The outer tusk surface carved in the form of a convex, unfolding butterfly with four incised wings and detailed body and head. The spaces between body and wings form the holes for attachment.


No marks



45 mm


42 mm


15 mm




Trees, flowers and plants were always highly regarded as being able to bring about the forms of good fortune they symbolised, including happiness, long life, success, fertility and also, their power to avert evil.

The Chinese name for butterflies is 'hu tieh', with the second character making a pun on "seventy years of age." The butterfly is hence used as a symbol of longevity and is also an emblem of happiness.
Furthermore, it could almost be considered to be the Chinese Cupid. The origin of this comes from the story of a young student who, while chasing a butterfly, was led to the daughter of a retired magistrate. Struck by her charms, he aimed to work hard to marry her and eventually rose to high rank.

Cammann, Schuyler, Substance and Symbol in Chinese Toggles, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1962, London, pp.105-106.
Williams, C.A.S., Outlines of Chinese Symbolism and Art Motives, Dover Publications, 1976, New York, pp.51-52.



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.


Credit Line

Gift of Alastair Morrison, 1992

Acquisition Date

22 June 1992

Cite this Object


Dress toggle made in China 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 7 December 2021, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Dress toggle made in China |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=7 December 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}