PMA Biography: Asian Art



Reagan Wish Staff Writer

The Asian Art wing is one of my favorites in the museum, as it includes traditional items beyond what one usually considers “art” and it also boasts some of the coolest reconstructed architectural installations. Now, I always dress up to go to the PMA (gotta look nice for the paintings, you know). So when I found myself in front of the “Emperor’s Dragon Robe (Mang Pao)”, circa 1840, from the Daoguang Period, I wasn’t sure whether to nod acknowledgement or strut around for dominance. Ya girl has never been so wooed by a piece of clothing. 

(That’s a lie, I follow Elle Fanning’s Instagram and I constantly covet her clothes.)

But for real, it is a stunning piece. Made from silk and threaded with gold, the robe tells a rich political and mythological story. Everything is specifically chosen, from the number of dragons, to the number of fingers on the dragons, to the way the dragons are placed in relation to the scenic details. It is wonderfully detailed, and the specific aspects work to denote the rank, prestige, and wealth of the wearer. The tour guide who was (serendipitously) giving a tour nearby went into detail about exactly who would wear such a robe, and it fascinated me to realize that clothes have so much power. I mean, we all know people who flex on others with fancy clothes, but this is a whole new level of peacocking. This was flexing on an imperial level.

Y’all should 100% go see this robe in Gallery 236 in the Asian Art wing. Make sure to wear your swankiest outfits.