In the Qing (1644-1911) court, a number of various toys were prepared by the empress and imperial concubines for awarding little princes and princesses during festivals. In the late Qing Dynasty, there was a spike in the number of toys because Emperor Tongzhi was only 6 years old and Emperor Guangxu was 4 years old when they were enthroned. The last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, Puyi, 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 became the clever trick 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, the range of toys in the Forbidden City covered all kinds. Some are for appreciation, some are for listening, and some are for training the operation ability and innovative ability. These toys fully reflect the integration of folk style, royal style, and exotic style, which is also the portraiture of the society during the late Qing to the period of the Republic of China.
Children Holding A Goldfish Lantern
Length: 21.5 cm, width: 11.7 cm, height: 19.5 cm. Collection of Qing court
The lantern is framed by wire and pasted by painted gauze. On both sides, it is painted with the design of two boys holding a goldfish. On the flanks are bat patterns, which work both delights and shoot-on the auspicious implies. This lantern is made according to the custom of admiring festive lanterns during the Lantern Festival which falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month.
Length: 36 cm, width: 16 cm, height: 20.6 cm, tail length: 42 cm. Collection of Qing court
The big-headed and long-tailed cloth tiger is painted with tabby decoration, with a pattern of “王” (the character means king) at the top of its head, looks charmingly naive. They were once inlaid with glass eyeballs, but now they are lost. This cloth tiger can be used as a toy during the daytime and as a pillow during the night. It is cute as well as functional.
The cloth tiger is deemed to be a symbol of exorcising, disaster prevention, peace and luckiness, and it can also protect one’s fortune. It is reposed with peoples’ pursuit of happiness. During the Dragon Boat Festival on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, it is very popular to make the cloth tiger for children, according to the characteristics of the tiger, or to paint tiger faces on the foreheads of the children with realgar, symbolizing health, strength and boldness.