two finished court robes

Activity: Make an Imperial Court Robe

  • 2 hours
    • Individual
  • Grades 1 - 6
  • Ages 6-7, 8-10, 11-14
  • Classroom or flat workspace

Dress for Imperial success! Put yourself into a robe like the ones worn by the emperors and empresses of China.


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.

Learning Goals

  • 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.

Background Information

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]
  • glue
  • cardboard or Bristol board
  • scissors
  • 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?


Step 1

two templates and small photos

Print the downloadable template along with a small photo of yourself.

Step 2

a photo on the court robe template

Cut out your face from the photo and glue it in place between the court robe and the hat.


Step 3

gluing the template to card stock

Glue the template to some card stock, Bristol board, or leftover cardboard (such as a cereal box).


Step 4

cutting out the robe and hat

Cut out the robe and hat.


Step 5

decorating the robe

Colour in and decorate the robe with auspicious Chinese symbols, or choose symbols and images that are lucky to you.


Step 6

an intern with her court robe

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?

Teacher Reflection

  • 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?

Extension Activities

Complement your robe with our Court Hat Activity!


Forbidden City: The Forbidden City was the largest palace complex in history, home to the emperors of China and their families from 1420 to 1912.
Auspicious: Leading to success; favourable; lucky