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Daoist Priest's Robe

Artist/maker unknown, Chinese

Made in China, Asia

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)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the George W.B. Taylor Fund, 1967

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Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    This type of Chinese robe was the traditional costume worn by a Taoist high priest when officiating at rites and ceremonies such as funerals. Constructed from two lengths of fabric that were folded in half horizontally, seamed in the back, left open at the front, and sewn together at the sides, with holes left for the hands, the entire robe is embroidered with a complex iconographic scheme. By the nineteenth century, Taoism had incorporated both Buddhist and Confucian concepts into its beliefs, and although the majority of the motifs on this robe are Taoist symbols, others, such as the pagodas on the front, are purely Buddhist in origin. The back of the robe represents the Taoist cosmology and includes, at the center, the symbolic Sky Door through which the palace of the Sovereign Above is revealed. The lower border represents the sea with its monsters, while on the sleeve borders the symbols of the Eight Immortals of Taoism alternate with the Eight Triagrams, which represent the eight spatial directions. Dilys Blum, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 78.

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