The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of June 26, 2016

Buddhist Priest's Ceremonial Robe, 1400s

silk and gold thread; embroidery, Overall: 119.40 x 302.10 cm (47 x 118 7/8 inches). Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 1987.57

This is the earliest surviving Chinese Buddhist robe, kashaya, in the West and a spectacular example of imperial Chinese embroidery. Twenty-five vertical columns alternate with applied bands of small Buddhas seated on lotuses amid clouds. The Thousand Buddhas theme represents the cosmic consciousness of the Buddha that everyone can attain.

In the upper center, the Three Precious Jewels represent the teacher and community of Buddhism and below, the wheel of the law signifies the two main philosophical schools of Mahayan Buddhism. The Four Heavenly Kings-bestowers of wealth, success, and victory-occupy the corners, while the Five Transcendent Buddhas who symbolize the purity of the five elements are repeated around the edges. When draped about the body, the inverted figures in the upper left corner appear right-side up.

Kashaya with 25 columns were worn by the highest ranking clergy on ceremonial occasions. This robe was probably commissioned by a major Tibetan monastery or given by the Chinese court to an important Tibetan lama.

CMA, Feb. 24 - Apr. 17, 1988: "Year in Review for 1987"
CMA, October 26, 1997 - January 4, 1998: "When Silk Was Gold: Central Asian and Chinese Textiles," catalogue number 64, pp. 210-212, reproduced in color, p. 210, detail reproduced in color p. 211
Also to: New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, March 3 - May 17, 1998

Main Asian Rotation (Gallery 244); Dec. 11, 2013 - March 9, 2015.

Detail Views