Primary Source

Children and Toys

Little boy playing with toys
Child playing with toy oxen
Two little girls with butterfly toys


These photographs come from The Hedda Morrison Photographs of China, 1933-1946 website, a collection of photographs that provide a perspective on childhood in a period that bridges the conclusion of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and the rise of a new 20th-century republic in China. Morrison, a native of Germany, spent time as a resident of Beijing where she built a rich collection of photographs of daily life during the 1930s and early 1940s. Among many topics, Morrison was particularly interested in street scenes and composed photos of shops, commerce, street-side entertainments, and the daily life of local residents. Included among these are a good number of images of children. These three images focus on the street-side sale of toys and on the children who admired and sometimes purchased the various objects. An exploration of these images raises intriguing issues regarding some of the material objects that made up a child's daily life (or part of a special occasion) as well as the social roles attached to their production, sale, and consumption. Indeed, it would seem – unlike the patterns of toy consumption enjoyed by children in a later day – that these roles overlapped greatly.

This source is a part of the Children in Late Imperial China, 900-1930 teaching module.


"Boy holding toy next to toy vendor's stand" (HM19.6368), "Child holding a pole with toy oxen at New Year's" (HM07.2872), "Two girls standing next to hawker's display of paper butterflies" (HM20.1657), The Hedda Morrison Photographs of China, 1933 – 1946, , Harvard College Library (accessed August 5, 2009).

How to Cite This Source

"Children and Toys," in World History Commons, [accessed June 22, 2024]