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Chaofu Summer Robe

The Chaofu is the most formal of the dragon robes worn by Chinese officials. It appears as a short jacket worn above a skirt but is is actually one piece, full length garment. Front overlap closing to the right, fastened with five loops and gilt metal toggle buttons, tapered sleeves ending with customary Manchu flared cuffs.  It is decorated with nine  five-clawed dragons within a celestial landscape. Smaller dragons are also featured in roundels above the skirt dragons and below the waves of the “jacket”. Silk gauze ground embroidered in  counted stitch technique using polychrome silk and metallic thread.

In Ching society, robe decoration distinguished specific garments, signaling their wearers prominence within the social and political structures of Chinese ruling class. Decoration conveyed visual codes that could be read by the privileged and educated  for whom this iconography was created.  During the Ching dynasty, uniforms 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.


Circa: 19th century

Origin: China

Material: Silk with Metallic Embroidery

Condition: Three small repaired cuts to the gauze in back of the skirt. Excellent

Dimensions: 80" sleeve to sleeve, 51" top to bottom

Inventory number: WR3986



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