Tobacco pouch

Certain Qing dynasty (1644-1912) robes lacked pockets, making pouches useful accessories. But the opening of this tiny tobacco pouch is stitched closed, indicating it was purely ornamental. Chinese “double happiness” characters appear on the tassels, and both sides are embroidered with phoenixes (symbolizing the Han empress) and lotuses (symbolizing purity), suggesting it was worn by a woman.

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Can you identify the phoenixes on this pouch – where do they appear and what do they look like?

responded: Jul 27, 2012

Posted by VIC224Y - Intro to Material Culture Uoft

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On either side of the pouch there is embroidery which depicts a red lotus flower in the centre with two phoenixes that are also red, on either side flying inwards towards the lotus. There are also colourful wave-like designs in blue, green, and yellow which surround the phoenixes and the lotus. The lotus signifies purity, long life, wealth, happiness and fruitfulness. The phoenixes are symbolic of the Empress, beauty, peace, prosperity and the sun. These are the symbolic meanings of the embroidery on the pouch. However, there is also a meaning attached to the symbols dyed into the tassels. Singularly, each symbol represents joy, but when both symbols are combined or doubled, they form the Chinese symbol known as Hsi, which symbolises double joy or married happiness.

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