The patterns on this kesi, or silk tapestry-woven fabric, have been created with metallic threads. Producing these threads was a time-consuming task. Gold and silver leaf was applied to paper, which was cut into narrow strips and wrapped around a silk thread. The more coppery tones were produced by using red paper and a red silk core thread, while using yellow or cream-colored paper and a yellow or white silk core thread produced more golden tones. Over time the silver leaf has oxidized, somewhat dulling the spectacular effect. Accents of red and green were created by combining floss silk with a metal-wrapped thread. These metallic threads were far less flexible than silk threads and required extraordinary technical and artistic skill to manipulate them to form the intricately-woven layered design featuring a diagonal lozenge grid against which the elements of the cosmic landscape and dragons were displayed. These sumptuous effects were particularly valued by the members of the Manchu aristocracy.
In the seventeenth century, luxury fabrics, such as kesi with metal-wrapped thread backgrounds and details worked in colored silk threads, became very popular. Reversing the use of silk and metallic thread, so the metallic threads created the patterns and the colored silk became the background, was a design innovation of the mid-eighteenth century. Such kesi dragon robes continued to be prized by those who could afford them during the nineteenth century.
A very similar kesi dragon robe dated Jiaqing period (1796-1820), in the A.E.D.T.A. Collection, is illustrated by J.E. Vollmer, Chinese Costume and Accessories, Paris, 1999, pl. 13.