Daoism (Taoism) fell from imperial favor during the Qing dynasty (1636-1912). The luxurious robes of Daoist priests, however, continued to be produced during this period according to earlier precedence. The cut of the robe’s rectangular shape with a straight front-opening is the most archaic. The garment surface is elaborately decorated in gold embroidery with a celestial diagram.


The central paradise image represented by a multi-storied pagoda flanked by two dragon guardians is embroidered at the center. Above it, at the right, the red sun surrounds a three-legged bird rooster and, at the left, the white moon contains a rabbit pounding the elixir of immortality. The three gold discs, at the base of the neck, of the astrological calendar are linked to the 28 lunar mansions or constellations under the sun and the moon motifs. Below the central pagoda are emblems representing the five sacred mountains guarding the principal directions: east, south, west, north and center. Filling the ground are four-clawed dragons, phoenixes, bats, fish, a tiger and various religious symbols, all enhancing the Daoist’s notion of an unseen heaven and paradise.

View this textile in the exhibition Golden Opportunities, on view until April 14.

Daoist Priest’s Robe
China, 19th – 20th century
Silk, gold paper-wrapped thread, plain and satin weave, embroidery
Bequest of the Estate of Illa V. M. Storme, 1978 (4678.1)