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Robes

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China Anonymous, Chinese
Male Jifu, c. 1800-1825
Silk and gold-wrapped threads
53 in. x 74 in. (134.62 cm x 187.96 cm)


Object Type: Textile
Technique: Woven
Creation Place: Asia, China
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. Richard Pettersen
Accession Number: 0438


Marks
No marks.

Medium
Medium blue kesi silk with brown silk sleeves and a light turquoise silk lining.

Object Description
A Manchu man’s semi-formal court costume. The main body and cuffs of the robe are made from colored silk and gold wrapped threads in tapestry weave (kesi), with mid-sleeve sections of plain brown silk. The neck, side opening, and cuffs are trimmed with couched gold threads. The garment is lined with lightweight turquoise silk. The robe is approximately ankle length and has slits on the front, back, and sides, indicating that it belonged to a high-ranking Manchu noble or a member of the imperial family. The tight sleeves, protective “horseshoe” cuffs, and front and back slits are derived from the Manchu rulers’ heritage as nomadic horsemen and archers.

The primary design feature of the robe is coiled dragons, with large front-facing dragons at the chest and upper back, and slightly smaller profile dragons on each shoulder and on the front and back of the lower robe, for a total of eight prominent dragons. In addition, the decorative trim edging the side closure and neck includes nine stretched out dragons, considerably smaller than the coiled ones woven into the main fabric of the robe. All the dragons on the robe are five-clawed, a feature originally reserved for the emperor and his heirs, but in wide usage by the 1800s. In cases where Manchu nobles are permitted to wear nine dragons, the ninth dragon would be under the front closure, preserving the symmetry of the jifu.

The lower third of the robe is covered with the standard deep water wave design, as represented by multicolored diagonal lines, with a rock design rising out of the waves at the four axis points of the robe. Various Confucian Precious Treasures are incorporated into the foam of the waves, including pairs of gold ornaments, swastikas, a pair of scrolls, and at the surface, coral and a ruyi scepter. The ornamented background surrounding the eight large dragons of the robe contains mainly Daoist symbols, such a fan, a flower basket, castanets, and a gourd with a crutch. Additionally, each dragon possesses a flaming orb; the dragons in profile face theirs, and the front-facing dragons encircle theirs. Clouds and bats adorn the rest of the blue background.

Apparently lacking are Buddhist symbols such as the fish, conch shell, endless knot, and canopy. This may have been a deliberate avoidance of Buddhist imagery that was otherwise prevalent on court robes.

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