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Young emperor's dragon robe

Young emperor's dragon robe

Young emperor's dragon robe, Qing dynasty, approx. 1850-1900. China. Embroidered silk. Gift of Hok Pui Leung and Sally Yu Leung in memory of their fathers Poon On Leung and Dr. Tin Wah Yu, 2001.15.

Court robes symbolize the cosmic order, and this robe, made for a young emperor, is a good example. The wavy stripes at the bottom of the robe  represent the sea. Groups of prism-shaped rocks rise from the water at the front, back, and sides of the robe. These represent the earth and the four directions. Above these peaks, nine dragons fly among colored clouds. The dragon is the emblem of the masculine (yang) element and hence of the emperor; the number nine was also reserved for him. The central front dragon encircles a flaming orb known as the Pearl of Wisdom. Scattered among the clouds on this robe are the symbolic implements of the Eight Taoist Immortals and other symbols of longevity, indicating the robe was  made for a birthday celebration. The collar of the robe symbolizes the Gate of Heaven. The wearer’ s head completes the cosmic order by  surmounting the symbols of the mortal world.