dauh (Bucket)

About this object

History of use

The primary use of buckets like this was for households to measure rice, as well as to store it. Until the 1950s, Tsuen Wan was a rice-growing area, although, being in the foothills of Hong Kong’s biggest mountain, Tai Mou Shan, its fields were less productive than the flat paddy lands controlled by the Punti language group. Many of the fields of Kwan Mun Hau Village had been reclaimed from the bay, and thus were relatively flat and productive. Buckets for measuring rice were of standard sizes, and may have been specific to market districts. One way they were used was to measure rice that was being loaned. They also served as measures of the size and productivity of fields, although larger measures were also used.
Red-painted buckets like this also featured in rituals. In the past, when a son of a family was taking a bride, the bucket would be filled with rice and set in their bedroom. Candles, called “dragon and phoenix candles”, were stuck into the rice and burned. On the night before the wedding, even now, the groom goes through a ceremony called “chahp fa” that takes place in the hall where ancestors are worshipped. Special ornaments are stuck into a hat that he wears while squatting over an empty bucket like this, right side up. The buckets used now are larger than this one. After the mid-twentieth century the New Territories of Hong Kong began to undergo fundamental changes. The people who had been settled there before 1898, when the British colonizers claimed the area, began to give up rice agriculture and coastal fishing, turning instead to wage labour and increased employment overseas. By the end of the century, educational opportunities leading to the possibility of white-collar work also increased, together with western influences. Twentieth-century changes meant that objects and clothing once useful and appropriate were no longer needed and generally were discarded. Some were saved by their owners, who sometimes were willing to donate them to museums, sharing, also, their knowledge of how they were made and used.


According to Yau Chan, Shek-ying, this bucket dated from the generation of her mother-in law. She said that the fact that it is made of bamboo is unusual. Some years later, they said that a member of their lineage had asked to borrow it for his son’s wedding, but by then it had already been donated to the Museum of Anthropology. Hakka people are one of the two original land-dwelling groups that settled the area that became the New Territories of Hong Kong. Their spoken language, and some customs, differed from those of the other original group, the Cantonese or Punti. The Cantonese arrived first and settled on the best rice-growing lands, while the Hakka began to arrive after the late 17th century and settled the more hilly lands.

Iconographic meaning

In Chinese culture, the colour red is both auspicious and protective. The fact that this is a rice measure suggests that it is a symbol of fertility.

Physical description

Bucket composed of slats of bamboo, coopered around a circular piece of wood and held with strips of metal fastened around the circumference near the top and at the bottom. The bucket is painted red on the outside.