Stitch by stitch the details of the ox’s face, its rider, and the colorful creatures and flowers that adorned its head all began to fall into place. The time and care put into this hat is evident not only from its striking complexity but also in its presence: even though it is only a hat this piece seems as if it might animate at any moment. It may be strange to think so much detail would go into an object that would be worn by a small child, who with a proclivity for accidents, would no doubt put this piece of art in danger. In order to protect their child, a parent would spare no expense. In Chinese culture, mainly before the twentieth century, hats were believed to play an important role in protecting children from evil spirits as well as bringing them good fortune.

So while it may seem that this whimsical ox and rider would be better suited in the pages of a mythical saga, its ornamentation is reflective of the gravely important role with which it was entrusted. Whether it be as a racer in the zodiac or a messenger for the Emperor of Heaven, the ox, due to its close relation to cultivation and food production, makes frequent appearances in Chinese mythology. Because of the vastness and versatility of the ox as a symbol within Chinese mythology, it holds both positive and negative connotations, sometimes being associated with death and atonement and in other instances being seen as a protector and bringer of prosperity.

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