Chinese baby carrier

Made in Hong Kong, 1930-1940.

Carrying a baby on the mother’s back has been the custom for centuries in China. The style of this baby carrier allowed a mother to continue her work in the fields, on the boat or around the home while keeping her child close and out of harm’s way and dates back to the early 19th century. Traditionally, it was customary for the grandmother to provide the carrier when the child was one month old. As more babies were born to the family, it became the responsibility of the older girls to carry thei...

Summary

2007/114/7
Baby carrier, handmade, silk / cotton, Hong Kong, 1930 - 1940

A baby carrier centring on a red silk square centrepiece. It features an embroidered peacock and floral motif in green, blue, black, pink, orange, yellow. There are differing pink, orange and green floral motifs at each corner. At each mid - point, there are Chinese characters in yellow which are, reading from top to bottom and left to right, chang, ming, fu and gui, meaning long life, riches and honour (ie wealth and rank). At the top centre is a triangular charm of several thicknesses of pale green silk satin.

Surrounding this centre square is a pale green silk brocade embroidered with floral sprays in black, blue, yellow, cream, pink and green. Four long straps made of cotton in a red, crimson and orange on a white background floral print extend from the bottom and top edges. The corners of the straps fold in to form pockets. The inside lining is of the same floral fabric.

Dimensions

520 mm

Production

Carrying a baby on the mother's back has been the custom for centuries in China, and is still popular in Hong Kong and China today. The style of this baby carrier allowed a mother to continue her work in the fields, on the boat or around the home while keeping her child close and out of harm's way and dates back to the early 19th century. Traditionally, it was customary for the grandmother to provide the carrier when the child was one month old. As more babies were born to the family, it became the responsibility of the older girls to carry their younger siblings on their backs.

There are three types of baby carrier. This baby carrier is made from a square of cloth, featuring embroidery decoration, with pieces of fabric in a lighter colour sewn each side of the centre square and four long strips made of red or patterned cotton extending from each corner of the square which tie in a knot in front of the wearer, enabling the child to be carried safely and comfortably. At the end of one or both lower straps the corners are folded in to form a pocket in which to carry money. A lucky charm comprising of a triangle of folded cloth is sewn to the top centre of the decorated square. Originally the charm was five layers thick to symbolise the five blessings. Later it was reduced to one thickness and is a wish for good luck and many children. One superstition asserts that the carrier must never be used the wrong side out unless one parent is dead, in which instance it must be worn inside out. The design of a peacock on this carrier symbolises dignity and beauty and is believed to provide protection from evil spirits.

The second shape is more often seen in rural areas and has a smaller centre square with longer straps attached diagonally to the four corners of the square. The third style is the least elaborate and consists of a plain, undecorated strip of red cotton or hemp, approximately 310 centimetres long by 30 centimetres wide that is wound twice round the child and tied in knot in front of the wearer.
1930-1940

Source

Gift of Mr John Pang, 2007

Cite this Object

Chinese baby carrier 2016, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 24 March 2017, <https://ma.as/367453>
{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/367453 |title=Chinese baby carrier |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=24 March 2017 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
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