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Chinese Door of Hope Mission Doll: Mourner

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All Items: Archives:Regional Art:Asian:Chinese: Pre 1920: item # 181779

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Chinese Door of Hope Mission Doll: Mourner
This rare Door of Hope doll, which represents a mourner dressed to attend a funeral procession, dates to ca. 1920. He is clothed in a long natural colored “sack cloth” outer robe of loosely woven hemp, which is tied with straw rope. Underneath, he wears a coarse unbleached muslin pao robe over leggings and muslin shoes. He has finely carved pear wood head and hands, carved and painted black eyes, painted black hair, well-detailed carved ears, and a closed mouth with an enigmatic smile. His tall high-crowned hat is covered by the hemp “sackcloth” and has vertical braided straw bands. A ball of cotton dangles from the hat over his forehead to catch his tears. Door of Hope dolls have become highly collectible treasures, in part, because of their fascinating history. In 1900, five missionary ladies started the Door of Hope Mission in Shanghai. They opened schools for destitute young girls so they could learn to support themselves. As a means to learn sewing skills, the girls dressed dolls. These beautifully created and utterly different dolls are magnificent in their carvings and costuming. Heads and hands were carved from Chinese “Niponga wood” or pear wood, a light colored hardwood that is tough and difficult to carve. In its natural color it resembles the ivory of the Chinese skin. Touches of paint were then added for the lips, eyes and hair. The dolls were supplied by craftsmen skilled in wood carving and then meticulously dressed in Chinese clothing with amazing detail by the young girls. Frog closures, tiny undergarments and minute embroideries all accented these wonderful garments. There were approximately 26 standard characters representing differing Chinese social classes. Each girl could dress only about one doll a month, and the relatively low volume of production of these dolls has increased their scarcity. Production of Door of Hope dolls continued until the Japanese invasion of Shanghai in 1937, at which time most of the estimated total production of 20,000 Door of Hope dolls had already been made. This Mourner, one of the rarer Door of Hope characters, is in pristine condition. He comes on a custom-made lucite stand and would be a wonderful addition to any Door of Hope doll collection. Dimensions: 12” high.


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