a collection of toggles in different stone and bone materials

Chinese Toggles: Culture in Miniature

A microcosm that manifested in a lost Chinese sartorial tradition
The bodhisattvas can see Mount Sumeru within a grain of mustard seed - 乃见须弥入芥子
Vimalakīrti Sūtra – 维摩诘所说经

Belt toggles, known as zhuizi (坠子), are small carved ornaments used as counterweights on cords tied around belts in traditional Chinese dress. Rising in popularity from the 1600s, belt toggles were used to secure pouches and cases for everyday items like tobacco, chopsticks, knives and money. These sartorial accessories gradually disappeared in the early 1900s as Western styles of dress became more fashionable across China. Zhuizi are decorative and functional objects that also embody great symbolic and cultural significance. Carved from a diverse range of natural materials to represent a variety of figures, plants, animals, and everyday objects, these splendid miniatures manifest Chinese culture and material values.

Chinese Toggles: Culture in Miniature was developed in partnership with the Powerhouse Museum and features objects mostly on loan from the Powerhouse collection, which includes one of the world’s largest collections of Chinese toggles, donated to the museum by Hedda and Alastair Morrison.

This exhibition was made possible thanks to the Pauline and Tim Harding Asian Collection Fund. 




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Header image: A group of Chinese toggles. Powerhouse collection, gift of Alastair Morrison, 1992.

Level 1, China Gallery

Now open
Closes Sunday 4 August