I don’t often reblog my own posts here because there is always something new to write about however I came back to this one today because I noticed that someone had recently looked at it. I feel it is time to update it a bit as it was one of the first ones I wrote back in May 2013.
This doll is not the oldest one I own any more. Our composition Shirley Temple and the two celluloid dolls are at least thirty years older than he is. He is however, the doll who has been with me the longest as he was given to me when I was about two years old. He is a little Chinese child who originally came to me with his mother. He is made of some coarse cotton cloth and his body is stuffed tightly. I remember that the mother dolls leg came off. I’m not sure why she wasn’t mended but somehow she disappeared and her little child, now an orphan went to live with some other small dolls I had.
He had some escapades over the years. Naomi once put him in the toilet, luckily she was too small to flush it and on another occasion she put him in a mug with some false teeth in it which really freaked me out.
When I was old enough to be curious I asked mum where he had come from. She was a bit vague about it and said she thought that he and his mother had been made by prisoners of war. I never did find out if there was any truth in this. I have however read that some dolls were made by refugees who had fled to Hong Kong from communist China so perhaps that is what mum was referring to.
In early 1977 I stopped over in Hong Kong while travelling to the UK. In a Mission Shop in Kowloon I found dolls very similar to my little orphan. I bought a boy and a girl but lost the girl during my nine week trip much to my annoyance. Thirteen years later on another stopover I managed to acquire another one and later still from eBay a mother and child similar to the original one I had. I came across another doll in an antique shop so now my orphan boy has not only a new mother but a whole family.
All the dolls are made of cotton, and have embroidered features, the older ones are stuffed with something firm, maybe Kapok or Excelsior, the newer ones feel as if they have synthetic stuffing.
I still wanted to know the origin of these dolls so while I was preparing to write this post originally I did a bit of internet searching.
I learned about Michael Lee, a doll maker in Hong Kong but after reading about him and his dolls I decided that mine were not made by him. However it is a very worthwhile story so I’ll include a link.
Then I discovered photos of Ada Lum dolls and I think mine looks rather like them but as neither my original dolls or any of the ones I have collected have any tags or other markings I will just say they are “in the style of” the Ada Lum dolls. My original dolls of course were made in the late 1950s but the ones I bought in Hong Kong were from the ;ate 70s and late 80s respectively. Although I didn’t learn much about my dolls I was fascinated to read that Ada Lum’s family migrated from Australia to China and that her grandparents were both from Adelaide where I grew up.
After I published my original post reader Cindy Lamm posted the following comment which I am incorporating into this post as I thought it was most interesting.
About your Ada Lum look-alike dolls. I was born in Formosa 1956, my Father was stationed there in the Army. My Mother bought my older sister a girl and boy doll like yours, which I now own. These dolls don’t have any markings to indicate that they are Ada Lum dolls, but my 95 year old Mother said this; there were so many shops selling these dolls, because the military people wanted to have a souvenir to take home. She could look into the back of the shop and watched young girls sewing the faces on them. And stuffing them with, what looked like cotton.
My sister and I weren’t allowed to play with the dolls too much and today I treasure them and often include them in a Formosa display at local libraries.
If anyone can tell me any more about these dolls I’d love to hear from them.