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Description

Dark blue silk brocade floor-length ceremonial robe with phoenix, dragon, pearl, fire and vase motifs woven with gold metallic threads and multicoloured silk. It has a standing collar and tapered sleeves. The robe closes in front asymmetrically (left over right) and fastens at the right side seam, under the sleeve, with a gold-coloured metal (brass?) ball button and loop. The silk fabric has been cut and pieced together like a patchwork, so that the main design elements are placed at center front and center back, so as to produce a symmetrical arrangement of design motifs in other places, for instance on the skirt. A panel of plain dark blue matching silk, which is not seen when the robe is worn, has been used to extend the lower half of the right front where it is overlapped and covered by the left. The edges are finished with red-orange silk damask facings, cut on the bias, and the lining is bright green damask with peony motifs.

History Of Use

The hereditary property of a high ranking Tibetan family. Worn only on special ceremonial occasions by members of the aristocracy. There were always restrictions as to who could wear what and when, among laypeople, monks, officials and the nobility. The textiles used probably originated in China or Japan. Robes like this one are typical of the gala costume worn by traditional Tibetan aristocracy and reflect socio-cultural and economic ties with China. The period of manufacture probably coincides with the period of Tibetan-Chinese political association from the early 18th through the early 20th centuries, although many of the fabrics predate this period.

Narrative

Yapshi-Yuthok Kalon Tashi Dhondup Collection: The title Yapshi is given to all families that have a Dalai Lama born into the family, and Shape and Kalon are titles that the four lay Cabinet Ministers hold. The Yuthok family is descended from the 10th Dalai Lama, Tsultrim Gyatso. Being a Minister in the Traditional Tibetan Government, Yapshi-Yuthok Tashi Dhondup was also known as Shape or Kalon Yuthok. There is one item belonging to Kalon Yuthok that is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum: a Tibetan saddle, which he used on special occasions and during the Tibetan New Year when he would go to the Potala Palace. It was the wish of the late Mrs. Tsering Dolkar Yapshi-Yuthok that the museum display the family's heirloom textiles so that visitors could learn about Tibet's rich history and culture.

Iconographic Meaning

There are ruyi motifs on the robe, representing long life and blessings: "may all your wishes be fulfilled."

Specific Techniques

This robe was likely made from material that was originally woven for a curtain. The curtain would have been cut cut and measured very precisely in order to be able to use as much of the curtain as possible. (Vollmer 2003:92).

Item History

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