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Woman's Dragon Robe with Five Imperial Symbols




Qing dynasty (1644-1911)


Woman's Dragon Robe with Five Imperial Symbols


Mid-19th c.


Silk gauze, gold thread


140.5 x 108.5 cm


Gift of Mrs. Randolph Bruce, inv. 1943.Ed.4


Archeology and World Cultures

The design and production of Qing imperial court robes were no small matters. The motifs, colours, materials and quality of formal wear were established by the Board of Rites, an imperial department responsible for all matters concerning court protocol. This unlined robe intended for summer use is unusual as it displays only five of the Twelve Imperial Symbols: the Constellation (the seven stars of the Ursa Major) in two groups on the back, the Sun and the Moon on the shoulders, and the paired Fu (two jagged lines back to back) and axe head on the front at the waist. The turquoise colour suggests that it was worn by an imperial consort. According to its previous owner, Sir William Van Horne, the garment comes from the wardrobe of the Empress Dowager Cixi, who reigned over China for almost fifty years in the second half of the nineteenth century.

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