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Festival hat

The tiger is the most common “fierce” animal found on Chinese children’s hats. Parents believe this fierceness protects the child from harm. The symbol between the tiger’s eyes is a wang, meaning king, which was often placed on the tiger’s forehead. If you look closely at the tiger's ears, you see tiny rabbits nestled in green grass. In traditional Chinese symbolism, the rabbit represents healing and long life.

Where was this textile created?

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Festival hat
Asia: East Asia, China, Hebei; Han people
Late 19th to early 20th century
Silk padded and stiffened with card and embroidered with metal and silk thread
17 cm x 11 cm
Gift of Fred Braida
T86.0603 Textile Museum of Canada

An orange silk tiger appears to be riding the top of this child’s hat with its paws clutching either side of the black earflaps. Wavy embroidered stitches suggest the tiger’s stripes, while fringes embellish its paws and belly, and the teeth in its open, grinning mouth are formed by a tiny curved row of pleated white silk.

A language of symbols based on plants and animals developed in China in Confucian times (first century BC), and persists today. While there is a whimsical element to Chinese children’s hats, shoes and collars, you can read their deeper meaning in this symbolic language.

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