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Decorative Designs in Chinese Art 中国文物的纹饰

Fire Design 火纹
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Qing Dynasty

We know a lot about clothing in the Qing Dynasty because much of it was preserved and there is an abundant amount of written information and pictures. Some of the most interesting items of clothing during the Qing are those worn by the members of the Qing court. Because of its location, the Capital Museum in Beijing has a number of excellent items used by Qing emperors and others closely connected with him. The picture below shows an imperial table cover from the Qianlong reign (1736—1795).

to embroider
乾隆(1736〜1795年)北京首都博物馆
Yellow satin embroidered table cover with golden dragon design
Qianlong Reign, Qing (1736—1795), Capital Museum, Beijing

The picture below shows a dragon robe 龙袍, which was the emperor's court dress. Golden dragons are embroidered on, as shown in the detail, right. Also, notice the longevity character 寿 to the left of the dragon. The pattern is a traditional dragon playing with a pearl 龙戏珠 design. A common related design is two dragons playing with a pearl 二龙戏珠. These designs refer to a early Chinese literature and legend in Zhuang Zi 庄子 (369-286 BCE), an influential Chinese philosopher who lived during the Warring States Period, and others.

Dragon robe
清朝公元1644〜1911北京首都博物馆
Dragon robe with flat gold petit-point embroidery
Qing (1644—1911), Suzhou Silk Museum

A rank badge 官补 or mandarin square is a large embroidered badge sewn onto an official robe in Imperial China. They were first used in the Ming and continued to be used in the Qing but with different designs. The picture below shown a rank badge with an embroidered crane design, indicating that the person who wore it was a top ranking civilian official.

Official badge with crane design
清朝公元1644〜1911北京首都博物馆
Official badge with crane design
Qing (1644—1911), Suzhou Silk Museum

The picture below shows a lady's jacket with a round crane design.

Lady's jacket with round crane design
清朝公元1644〜1911北京首都博物馆
Lady's jacket with round crane design
Qing (1644—1911), Suzhou Silk Museum

The emperor wore a dragon robe 龙袍 in court, a mian robe 冕服 at certain ceremonies, and tongtian ceremonial costume 通天冠服 for the highest ceremonies. Yuanyou ceremonial costume 远游冠服 was the full custume worn by princes at ceremonies. Court dress 朝服 was worn by high officials during important events and ceremonies.

Brocade with butterfly design on a yellow background
清朝公元1644〜1911北京首都博物馆
Brocade with butterfly design on a yellow background
Qing (1644—1911), Suzhou Silk Museum

The robe below shows an embroidered good luck symbol.

Ceremonial robe with gold coiled cloud embroidery
清朝公元1644〜1911苏州博物馆
Ceremonial robe with gold coiled cloud embroidery
Qing (1644—1911), Suzhou Museum

Huiyi 褘衣 was the full female ceremonial costume worn at the most important ceremonies. Yudi costumes 褕翟 were worn by Imperial concubines at important ceremonies. A qingyi costume 青衣 was worn by the emperess when meeting the emperor. A zhuyi 朱衣 was worn by the emperess at banquets when meeting receiving visitors.

Female robe with Embroidered coiled gold pattern
清朝公元1644〜1911苏州博物馆
Female robe with Embroidered coiled gold pattern
Qing (1644—1911), Suzhou Museum
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