Chinese Toys, Indian Streets

January 2011


A typical street toy shop in small town India. Outside a pilgrimage site in Rajgir, Nalanda district, Bihar.

Chinese toys are found in every street bazaar of India. Since about 2005 onwards they have almost completely overtaken the toy market. These low priced, well crafted, attractive and wonderfully inventive playthings have become a rage in cities, towns and villages. They are commonly sold at traffic lights, tourist spots, pilgrimage places, fairs and circuses, train stations and bus depots. Vendors carry them in trays and baskets, on cycle stalls and push carts, or spread them on sheets or the pavement.

This phenomenon in amazing in several ways: firstly, it is a remarkable example of global trade infiltrating the local informal economy; secondly, it is surprising how a culture specific and local crafts space has been taken over by a foreign product; and thirdly, it is interesting to see how the designs and characters of these Chinese manufactured toys try to find a connect with a local Indian audience.

The Chinese toys invasion of Indian streets has made them a part of the local popular culture.

Visual Essay
In this short survey of some of the classic early Chinese toys we see a very Asian design sensibility that is able to tanscend the wide cultural gap between neighbours - India and China.
Also see: http://www.bombay-arts.com/shooting_rajinikanth/shooting_rajinikanth.html

This presentation was part of the Urban Visualities seminar at Dakshina Chitra.
Informative article about the trade of Chinese toys in India
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