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Daoist Priest's Robe
Daoist Priest's Robe, c. 1850-1900
Silk satin with silk and gilt thread embroidery; couching, satin, chain, and brick couching stitches
Center Back Length: 53 inches (134.6 cm)
Purchased with the George W.B. Taylor Fund, 1967
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Looking Questions

  • What sort of garment might this be?
  • Are we looking at the front or the back?
  • What designs do you find in the borders? On the red background? In the round medallions?
  • Who might have worn such a robe? On what occasions?

Art Activity: Make a Miniature Robe

This robe is decorated with Daoist symbols in a perfectly symmetrical composition. Have students create a design for a Daoist robe by folding a piece of drawing paper in half lengthwise. Outline half a robe shape on it so the sleeve points away from the fold. Cut around the shape you have drawn then unfold the paper to display a perfectly symmetrical robe. Decorate the robe with colored pencils. Be sure to keep the design symmetrical as well. Finally, paint a thin layer of watercolor over the drawing and the blank areas.

Group Activity: Symmetry and Asymmetry

The design principles of symmetry and asymmetry greatly affect how we feel about what we see. When design elements are arranged symmetrically (like in a typical chair), the design feels solid, balanced, formal, and still. When elements are arranged asymmetrically (like in the design of the Nike swoosh), we sense movement, informality, and a casual air. Man-made things are often symmetrical. Nature almost never is. Divide students into small groups and have each group collect examples of symmetry and asymmetry in common objects around them. Make a collage chart of objects discussed in two columns, and also a list of adjectives that describe the designs. Have each group present their chart to the rest of class.

Research Project: The Dao

Learn more about Daoism and its founder Laozi. Research the Internet and books on religion to learn the principal features of this philosophy and religion. What are the differences between the philosophy of Daoism and the organized religion that grew up around it? Why is immortality so important to Daoists? By what method is it achieved? Compare these religious notions to ones that students are more familiar with.

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