International Children's Day is coming up on Wednesday. Parents have selected many kinds of toys as gift, varying from dolls to bricks. There seem to be too many choices.
But can you imagine what toys children in the Forbidden City played with one century ago?
In the Qing court, a number of toys were prepared by the empress and imperial concubines during festivals for the little princes and princesses. During the late Qing Dynasty, there was a spike in the number of toys given, because Emperor Tongzhi was only 6 years old and Emperor Guangxu was 4 years old when they were enthroned. The last emperor of the dynasty, Pu Yi, was pushed to the throne at the age of 3. Being the ruler of the country, he was no more than a child. So toys were used to entertain the little emperor.
From traditional folk toys like clay figurines and cloth tigers, to imported western devices such as music boxes and building blocks, there was a wide range of toys in the Forbidden City. These toys fully reflect the integration of folk style, royal style and exotic style, which also reflect late Qing society during the period of the Republic of China.
The children holding a goldfish lantern, kept at the Palace Museum. [Photo/dpm.org.cn]
This lantern is framed by wire and pasted with painted gauze. On both sides, it is painted with the design of two boys holding a goldfish. On the flanks are bat patterns on the auspicious implies. This lantern was made according to the customs of admiring festive lanterns during the Lantern Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month.