The collar and cuffs of this robe are of later date and probably contemporary with the construction.
The 'Twelve Symbols of Imperial Authority' are presented by the sun, moon, the constellation of seven stars of the Big Dipper, mountains, dragons, pheasants, a pair of sacrificial cups, water weed, grains of millet, flames, a sacrificial axe, and fu symbol. These symbols appeared as early as the Zhou dynasty, and the entire combination when used together was exclusively reserved for the emperor, signifying the Ruler of the Universe, cf. V. Garrett, Chinese Clothing: An Illustrated Guide, Oxford, 1994, p.4. These twelve symbols were later adopted as imperial motifs on Qing dynasty 'dragon' robes which were regulated in the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. The Huangchao liqi tushi, 'Illustrated Precedents for the Ritual Paraphernalia of the Imperial Court', which was enforced in 1766, restricted the use of the Twelve Symbols to the emperor and it is highly likely that the present robe was made for the Qianlong Emperor himself.
For an example of imperial embroidered 'twelve-symbol dragon' robe, see the jifu that was included in the exhibition, The Qianlong Emperor, Treasures from the Forbidden City, Zhang Hongxing, National Museums of Scotland Publishing Limited, 2002, p.45, no. 12. The authors explain that the jifu was worn by the Qianlong Emperor on less formal occasions such as state banquets and festivals as well as Imperial birthdays. It was also included in the Royal Academy of Arts exhibition China, The Three Emperors, 1662-1795, London, 2005, Catalogue p.72, no 5.
Compare also the present robe with two yellow-ground kesi Twelve-Symbol dragon robe, one illustrated in Dikenson and Wrigglesworth, Imperial Wardrobe, Oxford University Press, 1990, pl.57; and the one sold at Sotheby's New York, 22 March 1995, lot 88.
See also the imperial 'twelve-symbol dragon' robes sold in our Hong Kong Rooms, 26 April 2004, lot 1014 and 29 May 2007, lot 1388.