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A FINE AND RARE IMPERIAL KESI DRAGON ROUNDEL FROM AN EMPEROR'S SURCOAT
A FINE AND RARE IMPERIAL KESI DRAGON ROUNDEL FROM AN EMPEROR'S SURCOAT

QIANLONG PERIOD (1736-1795)

Details
A FINE AND RARE IMPERIAL KESI DRAGON ROUNDEL FROM AN EMPEROR'S SURCOAT
QIANLONG PERIOD (1736-1795)
Finely woven with a gold front-facing five-clawed dragon with its body coiled around a flaming pearl as it leaps amidst lingzhi-shaped clouds interspersed with the Eight Buddhist Emblems (bajixiang) above billowing waves, above its head is a three-legged cockerel in a red disk, one of the twelve symbols of Imperial authority, all woven in fine gold and multicolored threads on a black silk ground
11¼ in. (28.5 cm.) diam., matted
Provenance
European family trading in China in the 19th century.

Lot Essay

The semiformal court surcoat for the emperor was named gunfu, literally 'royal coat,' a name dating back to the Zhou dynasty (ca.1050 - 265 B.C.). Like the ancient name jifu used for dragon robes, this return to original sources was part of the Qing strategy to remake themselves into Chinese emperors. The name was reserved for the emperor's surcoat, which was decorated with four long, or five-clawed dragon, roundels. Those positioned at the shoulders also bore the ancient symbols for the sun and moon, the two most important signs of the Twelve Symbols of Ancient Authority. One of the first references to the garment name in the early eighteenth century Qing court regulations specifies the wearing of the gunfu for the first day of the annual sacrifices at the Altar of Heaven. See S.V.R. Cammann, China's Dragon Robes, New York, 1952, p. 28. By the mid-eighteenth century wearing surcoats over jifu, or semiformal court attire patterned with dragons, was widespread throughout the court.

In addition to the regulation five-color clouds and waves the bajixiang, or eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism have been incorporated at the edges of the roundel.

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