Chinese Festival Hat, T85.0753
Posted: Jan 8th, 2020 | Collection Spotlight

Our ~*very spooky*~ Object of the Week is an open-crowned Chinese children’s hat embellished with pumpkins!

This hat is one of 240 beautiful and unique children’s festival hats in our collection that highlight a seemingly infinite array of stitched narratives and images. Made by mothers and grandmothers for young children, their creation was labour-intensive, and required skill and imagination. First, the maker would cut paper to form the shape of the hat, then cover it with silk by stitching or gluing, and then line and stuff it. The hats were decorated using materials like metal thread, paint, silk floss, cardboard, sequins, glass beads and gold foil, and a great variety of techniques. Hats take the shape of animals and the formal headwear of court officials and scholars, and are decorated with symbolic imagery such as flowers, animals, human figures and Chinese characters. This hat features embroidered pumpkins, often used to symbolize prosperity, abundance, and enchantment.

Our collection of Chinese children’s hats was recently the focus of a major rehousing project, led by our Conservator, Hillary, and Genevieve Kulis. Hillary and Genevieve worked with a team of interns and volunteers to build a custom mount for every one of the 240 hats! The new mounts are multi-purpose: they protect the shape and delicate details of the hats; make it so the hats can be viewed in our storage area with minimal handling (always a risk!); and reduce the amount of work needed to prep the hats for display in exhibitions. Happy Halloween!

Links: See this hat on our online collection; read about the process, materials and challenges Hillary and Genevieve encountered while rehousing the hat collection; the TMC produced an exhibition about these hats in 2015: Good Beginnings: Children’s Hats and Clothing from China; Stories of Chinese children’s hats : symbolism and folklore by Phylis Lan Lin, Christi Lan Lin is a great resource, available in the TMC reference library.

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