Peranakan Beaded Wedding Belt
Straits Settlements or Netherlands Indies
length: 63cm, width: 8cm
The belt (which has yet to have a buckle applied) comprises a strip of cotton fabric onto which brightly coloured rocaille glass beads have been sewn. It is decorated with various Daoist symbols: two octagonal bat quai symbols, two butterflies, two peach symbols, two longevity symbols and one panel in Chinese script which reads ‘fu, lu and shou‘, or ‘happiness, prosperity and longevity.’
The belt almost certainly was intended for fair at a wedding – the pairs of butterflies suggest matrimonial harmony, and the symbols desiring long life, prosperity and so on, are the traditional hopes conferred on a Straits Chinese bride and groom.
Nonya beadwork featuring Chinese script is unusual, particularly as it is believed that most
nonyas could not actually read Chinese.
The beadwork is in excellent condition. There are no losses and the beads have remained bright and lustrous.
Rocaille beads were made in southern France and were widely used in Singapore and the other Straits Settlements for beading slippers, wedding pillow ends, betel set mats and other paraphernalia associated with baba/nonya culture. The Straits Chinese referred to the beads as
manek potong (‘cut beads’) and acquired them from street peddlers and specialist merchants for the purpose of beading and embroidery.
See Cheo (2009, p. 15), Ho (1987, p. 65) and Cheah (2010, p. 102) for other examples.
Cheah, H.F., Phoenix Rising: Narratives in Nyonya Beadwork from the Straits Settlements, NUS Press, Singapore, 2010.
A Baba Wedding, Marshall Cavendish, 2009.
Straits Chinese Beadwork & Embroidery: A Collector’s Guide, Times Books International, 1987.
UK art market
Inventory no.: 1835