Activity: Make an Imperial Court Robe
Many societies around the world use clothing and headpieces as a way of indicating a person's rank, status, and identity. The clothes that you wear can tell people a lot about you, but for royalty, it did even more. Court robes were covered in symbols to bring wealth and good luck to their owners.
- Understand that world cultures throughout history had different ranks.
- Discover how clothing and other apparel was a useful way to quickly convey the wearer's rank and status to others.
- Identify how robes worn by the emperors and empresses in imperial China denoted their rank and status.
The clothing worn by the Imperial family was beautiful to look at, but the symbols used in a court robe also told an important story. Auspicious symbols – symbols that were important, or lucky -- were embroidered on the robe as wishes for happiness, longevity, and wealth.
The Emperor’s court robe symbolized the universe. Only the Emperor was allowed to wear the Imperial gold colour, and every Emperor’s robe contains the twelve symbols of leadership:
- template [PDF]
- cardboard or Bristol board
- a photo of yourself
- markers or crayons
- embellishments (stickers, felt, feathers, rhinestones, buttons, beads, etc.)
- your imagination!
Look up images of Chinese robes and try to identify the symbols used on various robes.
What colour does the emperor usually wear?
Cut out your face from the photo and glue it in place between the court robe and the hat.
Glue the template to some card stock, Bristol board, or leftover cardboard (such as a cereal box).
Cut out the robe and hat.
Colour in and decorate the robe with auspicious Chinese symbols, or choose symbols and images that are lucky to you.
Show off your new Imperial court robe and tweet a picture to #atROM.
- Imagine that you are a curator in a museum, and you are putting this hat into an exhibition. Write a short label for the hat that answers some or all of the following questions:
- Who wore this robe?
- When did they wear it?
- How does this robe convey information about the person wearing it?
- What do the symbols mean?
- What clothes do you have with symbols on them?
- What clothes do you or people at your school wear to convey a message about yourself?
- Does the finished product demonstrate an understanding of the purpose and function of such attire?
- Did the student create a straightforward reproduction or creatively interpret the assignment? Did the interpretation they chose convey the intended message about the robe and its wearer?
Complement your robe with our Court Hat Activity!