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Straits Chinese Beaded Panel

Straits Chinese, Straits Settlements
circa 1900

length: 25.5cm, width: 10.5cm



Acquired by a colonial administrator in the early 20th century, and has been in England since.

This panel probably was intended for a curtain tie, used to hold back the curtains of a poster bed when decorated for the Straits Chinese wedding festivities. It is of rocaille beads that have been knotted together in such a way that the panel can be viewed from either side. Beaded tassels are suspended from the panel.

The panel is decorated with an auspicious blue peony against a bright yellow ground.

A similar panel is illustrated in Cheah (2010, p. 119). That panel is attributed to a Penang lady of Hadrami origins, Siti Rahmah binte Haji Yahya. It is thought that she might have learned such beadwork from her Straits Chinese neighbours and possibly undertook such work for Straits Chinese clients.

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 panel is in fine condition other than a nibble to one side from which some beads have been lost.


Cheah, H.F., Phoenix Rising: Narratives in Nyonya Beadwork from the Straits Settlements, NUS Press, Singapore, 2010.

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.

Khoo, J.E., The Straits Chinese: A Cultural History, The Pepin Press, 1996.

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