Exhibition of lucky ancient purses is right on the money

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 April, 2011, 12:00am


For the ancient Chinese, a purse was more than jut an accessory to hold one's money.

More than 160 vintage purses from the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) currently being exhibited in Park Central mall were also used to keep tobacco and fragrances and were carried as lucky charms, symbolising love and trust.

'When an emperor wanted a girl in his palace, he'd tie a silk purse on her dress,' said Li Xiangping, deputy curator of Beijing Folklore Museum, who officiated at the exhibition's opening ceremony yesterday.

The exhibition also includes purses granted by Emperor Qianlong to his ministers and Empress Dowager Cixi's gifts for her court ladies.

During the Qing dynasty, only purses commissioned by the royal families could use colours such as yellow and gold and embroideries of dragon and phoenix.

Floral patterns, such as the Chinese peony, were also popular.

Many of the purses featured an exquisite kind of embroidery called jin xiu, which was used exclusively within the dynastic circles.

Li said red and pink were thought to be lucky colours that could attract good relationships for girls and were popular for purses.

'Girls in the old time would give their lover a heart-shaped purse filled with fragrant spices and herbs,' Li said. 'It's similar to today's promise ring.'

The exhibition, including the purses pictured (above), ends next month, on May 22.