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Man's Chinese court robe

Date: 1870-1890
Overall: 1430 mm, 1 kg
Display Dimensions: 1430 x 1450 mm
Medium: Silk, woven kosu silk
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Robe
Object No: 00018554
Place Manufactured:Zhonghua

User Terms

    This Chinese informal courtrobe is purported to have been looted by W.H. Stevens of the Victorian naval brigade, when he was deployed to China during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900-1901 (?). The robe may have been given or purchased as a souvenir of his service in China. The Victorian naval brigade was one of the state naval brigades that later joined together to form the Royal Australian Navy. The robe features a four-clawed flaming pearl dragon and floral motifs and would have been an unusual souvenir.

    Looting has been a common practice during wartime. What some view as stealing, others see as merely taking an object they have found and keeping it, giving rise to the euphemism ‘souveniring’. An informal Chinese court robe held in our collection is alleged to have been looted by W H Stevens who served in the Victorian Naval Brigade – a small colonial naval force preceding the Royal Australian Navy – when it was deployed to China shortly after the Boxer Rebellion in 1900–01.
    HistoryDragon robes were worn in China from the 17th to 19th centuries as a hierarchical garment for male bearers of rank in the Chinese bureaucracy. They were also worn by bridegrooms on their wedding day. Prominent and common features are the hem design of stripes representing water with waves above, mountain peaks rising from the water and symmetrically placed dragons covering the body of the garment. Some westerners working in China were given special permission to wear the robes. Many visiting westerners purchased them as a fancy-dress item from the exotic east. There are numerous dragon robes in museum collections. Some are genuine antiquities worn by members of the Chinese Imperial court, but many were simply collected as souvenirs by wealthy westerners and later sold or donated to museums. We do not know for sure if our dragon robe was looted, but it certainly would have been a special souvenir for an Australian sailor from Victoria at the beginning of the last century.

    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Men's chinese informal courtrobe

    Web title: Man's Chinese court robe

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