Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.


  • Place of origin:

    China (made)

  • Date:

    possibly 1736-1795 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered coloured silks and gold thread on silk

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with Art Fund support

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Imperial robes worn by the emperor are often known as dragon robes partly because of the prominent dragon motif

This robe, made for an emperor, appears bright yellow, but it is entirely embroidered on blue silk.

Certain shades of yellow were restricted for the exclusive use of the Emperor and his immediate family. Apart from the five-clawed dragon, the Emperor's robe would also most likely carry the twelve imperial insignia: symbols including flames, an axe, libation cups are subtly incorporated in the robe.

Physical description

Twelve symbol dragon robe, embroidered yellow and blue ground. Blue silk ground embroidered yellow silk of a design of endless swastikas. Scattered all-over this surface are cloud-forms and the twelve symbols. Five-clawed dragons back and front and on the shoulders. Sea, earth and rocks round lower edge, and sleeves. Fastening at the side, the skirt is slit for about 2 feet up the centre at front and back. Sleeves shaped. Cuffs embroidered with same design. Three-quarters of sleeve is of dark blue silk, having single stripes of gold thread embroidery. Round the cuffs and round the neck are bands of gold and black brocade.
Colours: blues, pink, green, white, yellow, red, brown and gold thread.
Stitches: mainly couched work and satin stitch
Lining: bright blue satin- new on body
The sleeves have a damask pattern of flower roundels. Sleeves have been altered, cut and rejoined.

The robe may indeed never have been worn by an emperor, and the robe seems to be rather carelessly tailored.

Place of Origin

China (made)


possibly 1736-1795 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Embroidered coloured silks and gold thread on silk


Height: 142.9 cm, Width: 193 cm

Object history note

Registered File number 1947/374. From the collection of Bernard Vuilleumier.

Descriptive line

Dragon robe, embroidered coloured silks and gold thread on silk, China, Qing dynasty, possibly Qianlong period (1736-1795).

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Vuilleumier pl. 1, Tsui book, no.86

Production Note

The shou (longevity) character embroidered on this robe is seen in two other robes made for the Qianlong Emperor, in the Palace Museum's collection (Gugong Inv. Nos: 44885 and 42113)

Subjects depicted



Clothing; Royalty; Embroidery; Textiles


East Asia Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.