This post is dedicated to Ann from These Walls of White, and to her recently-arrived beautiful baby daughter, the first of the three babies alluded to in the title. Born in Japan, her life is starting out as an adventure, and she is lucky to have Ann for a mother, who will see to it that she never misses out on the excitement.
The other two lucky babies were the original occupants of these antique Chinese baby carriers adorned with auspicious silver emblems. These are the traditional way of carrying babies around, and many people in Taiwan still use them, although modern ones tend to be much plainer.
This carrier has a red background bordered with blue, and the center is virtually filled with ornaments.
The two illustrated here are made from cotton, and are remarkable for their central panels completely covered with lucky charms. The decorations are all made from sheet silver, but a number of them are vermeil (gold-washed). The designers used the gold and silver tones to advantage in the arrangement of the ornaments.
|This orange bordered with light blue carrier, while still very ornate, is more open in design.|
The Chinese have always been big on all kinds of lucky charms and amulets, and there are a number that are considered especially appropriate for babies or children. Prominently featured at the top of each carrier is a row of the Eight Immortals, surrounding a god (or gods) of Luck, Longevity and Prosperity.
The dragon and phoenix are appropriate symbolic elements, and are found a number of times on these carriers. Together, they illustrate femininity (phoenix) and masculinity (dragon), and are therefore a counterpart of the Yin and Yang principles.
Lions are one of the most basic Chinese symbols for protection and luck.
The qilin, which looks somewhat like a baby dragon, is always auspicious whenever it makes an appearance.
These spouting fish will help to bring prosperity and good luck.
The sun and moon are also present, with more spouting fish. Since they can look similar when worked in silver, they are helpfully labeled with the characters for sun (日) and moon (月).
Virtually a necessity for protecting and blessing children is the lucky phrase, Chang Ming Fu Gui
(長命富貴), which wishes a long life and prosperity. On both of these carriers it is prominently rendered in letters of silver.
Some of the smaller emblems depict vases, flowers, butterflies and various trophies. The blue-and-red carrier also has several dangling Bells, always useful to keep away evil spirits.
One can see that the Chinese are unwilling to leave anything to chance when creating an auspicious start for their offspring. Not all babies had fancy carriers like these; more common were coin-like amulets worn around the neck, often with the ‘Chang Ming Fu Gui’ characters, and hats embellished with similar silver figures of the Eight Immortals.
|One of the carriers in its entirety, showing the construction out of fabric.|
Babies today don't require so many amulets, yet their safety is much better looked after. Perhaps the most auspicious start comes from the home environment; some of the decisions Ann encountered in designing her nursery were presented in her design and travel blog.
Congratulations to Ann and her husband; I wish them a wonderful and happy life with their new daughter, and all of the luck contained in these two tour-de-force baby carriers.
(Baby carriers and photos, collection of the author.)