Chinese Wedding Gown (Qun Gua)

Production date
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Object Detail

Traditional Chinese wedding gown consisting of a black and red silk top and long skirt, embroidered with peonies in shades of orange and pink with small turquoise leaves. Circular wave or scale pattern embroidered in silver metal thread around edging of garment. Jacket features a tie at front opening. Pleating at sides of skirt. Skirt trimmed with tassels. Black silk top featuring pink ornamental closures and ties.
CH classification COSTUME Wedding
CH classification COSTUME Wedding woman
Production place
Jacket 66 x 120; Skirt 103 x 60
Media/Materials description
Silk (Textiles)
Cotton (Textiles) thread
History and use
This qun gua was worn by Miss Nellie Sun Jue Yow in 1934 when she married Mr William Kee in Hong Kong. The ceremonial dress, which translates to ‘long skirt and top coat’ in English, reflects Nellie’s Chinese heritage and a traditional belief that a bride who wears a qun gua expresses luck, prosperity, abundance and future happiness.

As is custom in Chinese culture, a wedding can comprise a number of different events and a bride can change her outfit several times as a display of her family’s wealth.
Nellie’s wedding was ordained in an Anglican church, where she wore a white, western-style gown. For her evening reception, she changed into this qun gua.

Nellie Kee was born in Brisbane in 1912. Her father, Mr Sun Jue Yow was from Canton, China and was one of the few Chinese people to settle in Brisbane after the gold rush. The Sun Jue Yow family owned a large Chinese enterprise trading in the fruit and vegetable market along Roma Street during the early Twentieth Century. In 1924, the Jue Yow family left Brisbane and moved to Hong Kong.

As a young girl, Nellie attended the Normal School in Brisbane and was one of the very few Chinese students to attend the school. In 1924, when Nellie was only 12 years old, her family decided to move to Hong Kong (she had two brothers) and lived there for 35 years. In 1932 when she was 20 years of age, Nellie worked for a ladies and gentleman’s outfitters store as an office worker. During this time she met William Kee who was a Hong Kong/Chinese man who worked in the import and export of wine (selling wine). It is uncertain as to whether the couple were arranged to be wed by their parents however they were married in 1934 at St Stephen’s Anglican Church in Hong Kong. The marriage took place in the church at 2pm and the wedding reception took place shortly after at 4pm. Mrs Kee wore a Europoean (western) style white bridal gown to these events. This qun gua was worn by Mrs Kee to her evening wedding banquet later that night at 7pm. The style of qun gua was selected by Nellie's mother who had the gown custom made through mail order.

In 1959, twenty-five years after their wedding, Nellie and her husband William decided to move to Australia. Mr William Kee was not a stranger to Australian life as he was born in Bundaberg, Queensland. Once the couple had moved to Queensland, they ran a shop on Rainworth Road, Rainworth selling a mix of items.
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