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Robe (jifu)

The nomadic Manchu invaded China in 1644 and formed the last imperial dynasty known as the Ching (Qing). The construction of this robe alludes to the mixing of cultures in China at that time. The dragons, silk and the fine tapestry weave of the cloth are all from Han, or Confucian China. The cut of the robe is Manchu – slit down the front to make horse riding easier.

Where was this textile created?

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Horses and Dragons

Robe (jifu)
Asia: East Asia, China
1850 - 1875
Silk woven in slit tapestry technique, fur trim
138 cm x 210 cm
Gift of Fred Braida
T89.0303 Textile Museum of Canada

This semi-formal man’s court robe is finely woven using the “slit tapestry” technique, or kesi in Chinese. The technique originated with wool tapestry in the Middle East and became more advanced and time-consuming as it was adapted for Chinese court robes.

The horse and dragon are reflected here in one magnificent garment. The power of the Chinese Emperor is symbolized by the five-clawed dragon clutching the sacred pearl of wisdom, and surrounded by other dragons floating in the heavens. The Manchu are represented by the reference to horses, which they rode for centuries across the great steppes of central Asia.

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