Saturday, January 5, 2013

Silver Betel Box (Chelpa)

The hinged silver octagonal box shown here were used by the Malays to hold tobacco or betel nut (sirih). This example is decorated with chasing, engraving and punch work with Islamic inspired palmettos on one side and repeated Chinese inspired plum blossom motifs on the other, neatly encapsulating two significant influences on traditional Malay culture: Islamic and Chinese tendencies. It is believed that the form of these boxes is based on the form of pocket watches used by 17th, 18th and 19th century European gentlemen who came to Asia as traders and colonialists. Often they were worn attached to a scarf or kerchief draped over the shoulder.

Do check out my previous blogs about the betel nut paraphernalia.

Islamic inspired palmettos motifs.

Chinese inspired plum blossom motifs.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Taoist Eight Immortal Figures

Pictures below are two sets of tarnished silver gilt Taoist Eight Immortal figures which were used for the Peranakan family to pin on a bridal wedding headband. They are the protective talismans for the brides, and also a symbol of their virginity. 'Pak Siam', the name used by the Baba and Nyonya of the Malay Peninsula and Singapore for this headdress figures derives from the figures of the Eight Immortals (Ba Xian, 八仙), the legendary figures of Taoist religion, whose particular emblems indicate the special powers of secrets for which they are revered. The Eight Immortals are often accompanied, as in this case, by the God of Longevity depicted as an old man which sewn in between the Eight Immortals.

Similar types of these Taoist Eight Immortal figures were also worn by babies which were sewn on the baby hats as the protective talismans, or the boys on the headdress at their circumcision ceremonies.

Set 1

Set 2