Enquiry about object: 7226

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    Straits Chinese Beaded Belt

    Straits Chinese people, Straits Settlements, Malaysia, Singapore or South Sumatra
    circa 1900

    length: 72cm, width: 5.7cm



    UK art market

    – scroll down to see further images –

    This superb belt of purple velvet decorated with tiny rocaille beads is from the Straits Chinese or peranakan communities probably of Singapore and possibly Malacca, Penang or south Sumatra.

    Most probably intended to be worn as part of a wedding costume, it has been decorated with beads in many colours, with deer, birds, monkeys and other creatures, along with peony blooms, within borders of sea creatures. The motifs all suggest abundance and prosperity – auspicious symbols for a newly married couple.

    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.

    The Straits Chinese were the descendants of immigrants from mainland China who had settled in the Straits Settlements of Malacca, Penang and Singapore, and also in nearby Indonesia, and who, over many generations adopted cultural habits from the local Malay people, which, when mixed with their own, created an unusual hybrid culture.

    The belt here has a grey felt backing and purple ties at each end. It is in exceptional condition.


    Cheah, H.F, Nyonya Needlework: Embroidery and Beadwork in the Peranakan World, Asian Civilisations Museum, 2017.

    Ee, R., et alPeranakan Museum A-Z Guide, Asian Civilisations Museum, 2008.

    Ho, W.M., Straits Chinese Beadwork & Embroidery: A Collector’s Guide, Times Books International, 1987.

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