Chestnut-Ground Silk ‘Nine-Dragon’ Robe, Mangpao
In Ching society, costume decoration distinguished specific garments, signaling their wearers prominence within the social and political structures in Chinese ruling class. Decoration conveyed visual codes that could be read by the privileged and educated classes for whom this iconography was created. During the Ching dynasty, most of the clothes belonged to a small privileged segment of society with power and wealth. In general, there were six groups of imagery based on subject matter: imperial, faunal, figural, floral, scenic and emblematic. The imperial imagery was based on dragons used as symbols of imperial authority. The dragons are placed within the context of the cosmic landscape-waves, mountains, and clouds (the elements of water, earth, and air). Combined components represented the visible universe.
Floor length garment(chifu) with a front overflap closing to the right, fastened with five loop and gilt metal toggle buttons and one knotted cord toggle button inside front flap, tapered sleeves ending with flared cuffs, front a and back vents.
The robe is decorated with a terrestrial landscape featuring nine five-clawed dragons. Three in front, three in back, two on shoulders and one on inner flap.
Upper body and sleeves decoration symbolize the celestial landscape with dragons in gold with multicolored clouds, mountains, and waves with precious things, bats and auspicious symbols. The neckband border and cuffs with imperial imagery as well.
Circa: third quarter 19th Century
Material: Silk with silk and metal thread embroidery
Dimensions: 59" X 85" Sleeve to Sleeve
Inventory number: WR3908