The present surcoat belongs to a rare group of surcoats decorated with four front-facing dragons that were worn by the emperor, the heir apparent, or the imperial sons. According to J. Vollmer and J. Simcox, in Emblems of Empire: Selections from the Mactaggart Art Collection, 2009, p. 69, surcoats for imperial sons had shou characters placed above all four dragons, while the emperor’s surcoat only had shou characters above the heads of the two dragons at the chest and back, and symbols for the son and moon above the dragons on the shoulder.
Other variations of this surcoat exist that could be worn by imperial princes of the first or second rank, but these feature mang dragons rather than long dragons, and dragons in profile rather than front-facing, on the shoulders. For an example of an embroidered gauze surcoat for an imperial prince of the second rank, see J. Vollmer and J. Simcox, Emblems of Empire: Selections from the Mactaggart Art Collection, 2009, pp. 72-3.
On the present surcoat, each dragon is encircled by bats, clusters of double peaches, and wan emblems. These are all signs of longevity indicating that this robe may have been worn on an imperial birthday.