This Chinese emperor’s robe, lavishly worked in gold thread, contains imagery intended to signify the unique status of its wearer. The dragon is an emblem of the emperor; there are nine dragons on this robe. Since the number nine is associated with both emperor and dragon, the robe connects the two both visually and numerically.
Another important function of imperial Chinese imagery was to emphasize the emperor’s position at the central axis of the cosmos. This location is marked by a peach tree emerging from a rock at the center of the cosmic ocean. Peach trees are images of immortality in Chinese culture, and a group of Daoist Immortals appear here in their symbolic forms of fan, fly whisk, sword, crutch, fish drum, wooden clappers, basket, lotus, and flute. The message is clear: royalty and divinity are not far removed from one another.
(Label from Exhibition Hidden Gold: Mining Its Meaning in Asian Art)