Daoist Robe of Descent (Jiang yi)

Ming (1368–1644) or Qing (1644–1911) dynasty
17th century
Silk and metallic thread embroidery on silk satin damask
53 x 83 1/2 in. (134.6 x 212.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mathias Komor, 1946
Accession Number:
Not on view
This vestment for a Daoist priest is densely embroidered with figures representing the Daoist pantheon. The deities float on clouds amid cranes in flight. The pantheon shown here had remained largely unchanged since the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368).

Scholars suggest that the layout of a jiang yi corresponds to the layout of a Daoist temple, with minor deities represented on the front of the robe (corresponding to the south wall of a temple) and major deities on the back of the robe (north wall). The entrance to a temple, like the front opening of this robe, has a tiger on one side (the west) and a dragon on the other (the east).

Major figures on the back of the robe include the Jade Emperor (the large figure at the center back) and the Three Pure Ones, seen at the center top flanked by the sun and moon. Minor figures, shown on the front of the robe, are identifiable through various attributes. For example, the Lord of the White Tiger Star appears on the front left near the center, accompanied by a tiger.
Mathias Komor , New York (until 1946; donated to MMA)
New York. China Institute in America. "Embroidery of Imperial China," March 15, 1978–May 29, 1978.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Chinese Textiles of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties," April 1, 2005–July 25, 2005.