Date of this Version
Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.
This paper will report on preliminary research into the relationship between a certain historical Chinese patchwork garment, the baijia pao or "one hundred families robe," and a recent commemorative practice within the community of American adopters of Chinese children, the making of "One Hundred Good Wishes Quilts." For centuries, Han Chinese mothers made patchwork baijia pao as gifts for their sons to celebrate auspicious birthdays. Ideally, the robe's patchwork body was constructed from fabrics donated by numerous local well-wishers, the socalled "hundred families." The fabrics, symbolizing the combined strength of the donors, were believed to help the young boy resist or deflect evil spirits and ghosts. More recently, the baijia pao appears to have inspired a new tradition called the "One Hundred Good Wishes Quilt" (OHGWQ). American parents in the process of adopting a child from China solicit pieces of fabric from family and friends, which they use to construct a bed quilt that celebrates and welcomes their new child. OHGWQ websites frequently cite Chinese tradition as inspiration and use the Chinese term baijia bei, or "one hundred families quilt" to describe their projects, suggesting and/or constructing a link between the traditional Chinese baijia pao and this new form of commemorative patchwork. This paper will place the baijia pao and the OHGWQ in their individual cultural contexts and investigate the possible connections between them. In doing so, it will also explore complex issues of trans-national identity, cultural appropriation, and meaning-making, and will suggest avenues for further research.