Hebao is the pinyin for Chinese name of embroidered pouch. It is a kind of ornament of traditional clothing of Chinese. Except being used as a bag, hebao is more often a symbol of people’s aspiration for happiness and perfection, as well as an important expression of vision and emotion.
People began to wear hebao before Qin Dynasty (BC 200). Hebao was widely spread among people as a precious ornament in Tang Dynasty. Such custom is still popular in some ethnic minorities today.
Hebao looks small but a classic needlework for women. It has become a token of young girls for their secret fancy, love, engagement and marriage, or a symbol of praying for more sons or grandsons. It can be given to the elderly for good wish of health and longevity. It can be given to friends as the greetings to wealth and good luck. Hebao can also be used as a sacred object for worship for God. Such a small bag carries the great wishes for love, happiness and longevity.
Hebao can be worn in daily life as a wallet, a needle bag, a jewelry bag, a perfumed bag, a bag carrying loose items, such as glasses, frizzen, keys, watch, and a worship bag with mini statue of god.
People wore hebao at different positions according to their age and gender. Men usually wore it on either side of their girdles, while women between knots of their coat. The elderly usually wore it under the waist, while children in front of their chest.
The embroidery on hebao varies in different regions such as Jiangsu, Hunan, Guangdong, Beijing, Sichuan and Fujian. Different ethnic group, such as Miao, Zhuang, Dong, Tu and Man, has its unique style in design. The materials of hebao are various textiles including cotton cloth and silk fabrics. Some knitting techniques are the most commonly used, for instance, plain stitch, counted stitch, padded appliqué and flat velvet design. Every hebao has a belt on the top and tassels at the bottom, usually with jade or pearls as ornament. Some ethnic groups also decorate hebao with metal, bamboo and rattan, shells and fur-skins.
The 288 items exhibited here with their own ethnic characteristic. They are collected from the areas of Beijing, Shanxi, northwest China, and southwest China including Tibet. Those items were made in different times, from Ming Dynasty until modern times. Some of them may be dated back to 600 years.
Location: 1st floor, Bai Branch Museum, South Park