1821-50 (Ch'ing dynasty)
Embroidered silk, gold thread
The John R. Van Derlip Fund
- Tell the story of Wu Wei and the dragon. The dragon frequently appears on Chinese court robes like this one as a
for the emperor's power to mediate between heaven and earth for the well-being of the people.
What is a symbol?
Something that stands for or represents another thing or idea.
Where are dragon symbols on this robe?
Center, lower left and right, left and right shoulders, tiny dragons on sleeve borders.
How did the emperor mediate between heaven and earth in this story?
He persuaded a priest to summon a dragon in order to bring rain.
Rollover the image to locate details from the Dragon Robe for an Empress of China
- This dragon robe is covered with
that stand for the emperor's authority to mediate between heaven and earth.
Find multicolored lines that represent "standing water."
Hem and sleeves of the robe.
Find frothy ocean waves.
Semicircles above the diagonal stripes.
Find three prism-shaped rock formations that symbolize mountains.
Above the ocean waves.
Find colorful stringy clouds that float throughout the robe. The Chinese word for happiness and bat sound similar.
Find red bats that symbolize happiness.
Red bats fly through the sky below the central dragon.
Find the round red shou character, a symbol of long life.
Scattered throughout the area surrounding the dragons.
Find three pearls that symbolize wisdom.
White circles with red flames held by each of the three central dragons. See also THINK 1.
can be made up of any repeated elements such as line, shape, or color.
Detail of swastikas from the Dragon Robe for an Empress of China
What pattern do you see on the BACKGROUND of this robe?
Bright blue connecting lines that make a background for other
Do these lines look familiar to you?
Point out the swastika in the pattern and explain that in traditional Chinese culture it symbolizes luck and the number 10,000.
- How are the symbols and patterns applied?
EMBROIDERY: the technique of hand sewing decorative designs on fabric with needle and silk thread.
How can you tell?
Thread creates tiny lines within each design, uneven edges of designs show where the thread has gone through the fabric.
- During the Chinese Ch'ing dynasty, everyone who served the Emperor at court wore special robes. Rank and status within the court
were indicated by the cut, color, and
decoration of these robes. The emperor, empress, and empress dowager (emperor's mother)
wore yellow robes with five-clawed dragons. The crown prince wore apricot yellow, while the imperial princes wore blue or brown.
Officials of the first through third ranks dressed in blue robes with nine dragons. Officials of the fourth through sixth ranks wore
blue robes with eight four-clawed dragons.
Who wore this dragon robe?
The emperor, empress, or empress dowager. The colors and the cut of this particular robe indicate that it was worn by the empress.
- Make a list on the board of all the
and their meanings discussed in LOOK.
- Chinese dragons were magical, mythical animals that could make themselves as large as the universe or as small as a silkworm.
They could change color and disappear in a flash. Dragons were rarely seen because they hid in caves or at the bottom of the sea.
Any sighting of a dragon foretold happiness and good fortune.
Can you think of other magical, mythical characters who bring good luck and good fortune?
Leprechauns, fairies, elves, angels, a genie in a lamp.
- The symbols on this dragon robe are associated with the emperor's authority to intermediate between heaven and earth.
Which of the symbols are related to earth?
Water, waves, and mountains.
Which of the symbols are related to the heavens?
Clouds, bats, and dragons.
Are the shou character for long life and the pearls symbolizing wisdom related to heaven and/or earth?
Why do you think they appear on the robe?
They are related to qualities desirable in an emperor.
Contrast the story of this emperor with Nebuchadnezzar.
The Chinese emperor sought rain for his drought, while Nebuchadnezzar ignored the needs of his people. Talk about the responsibility of rulers.
Color print finished in pen and watercolor
Miscellaneous purchase funds
- The blue swastika pattern that makes up the background of this robe is symbolic of good luck and the number 10,000. Why do you
think a symbol for 10,000 appears on the empress's robe? Explain that any symbol of blessing laid against the swastika is multiplied