Formal Court Robe (chao-fu)
Of all the Qing dynasty garments, the chao fu (court garment) was the most formal Manchu court robe and was worn only during the most important court functions. The chao fu consists of two separate sections: the upper part is a hip-length riding coat, and the lower part is a pair of aprons that overlap at the sides. The design was brought to China by the Manchu tribes, who wore aprons over their regular garments on festive occasions. Court officials wore dark colored robes such as this one.
The chao-fu is the most common robe depicted in Manchu royal portraits, but it is the rarest type of royal robe found in modern collections because the robes were often used by the Manchus as burial garments.
Daoist Priest’s Robe
The Daoist priest’s robe was worn during the performance of ritual ceremonies in order to assist in obtaining the intervention of heaven on behalf of the assembled nobility.
The celestial diagram and the symbols of good fortune embroidered on the robe were believed to strengthen the priest’s mystic power.
Ji fu means “auspicious robe.” Manchu officials wore such semi-formal court coats for daily court activities. This robe, decorated with nine, four-clawed dragons, would have belonged to someone below the rank of a second-degree prince.
The robe was worn with a belt around the waist. From the belt many accessories were meant to hang like pendants–thumb-ring bags, survival kits, fan cases, etc.
Manchu Lady’s Informal Robe
The color red is associated with the south and with the element of fire. Red robes were often worn to celebrate significant birthdays or marriages.
This informal robe is embroidered with various flowers and Eight Precious Objects in the medallions and borders.
Manchu Boy’s Coat
This small coat was made for a boy. The decoration, though simple, is exceedingly lovely. Each of the four embroidered medallions on this black satin coat contains five bats surrounding a ji character meaning “luck.” In Chinese, the pronunciation of “bat” is the same as the pronunciation of “happiness.” Thus the robe’s major decorative motif is a message of luck and happiness to the wearer.
Insignia of Fourth-Degree Prince
This insignia of a fourth-degree prince includes an abbreviated form of the major symbols found in the dragon robe.
The dragon hovers in the clouds, in the celestial realm. Behind and below him are mountains that rise above the stylized waves undulating along the sides of the medallion.
The three small white circles represent the constellation, one of the Twelve Symbols of Sovereignty.
Special thanks to the SAN DIEGO MUSEUM OF ART