An Imperial 9 dragon embroidered robe with shimmering couched gold threads. The beautiful blue ground is for a 3rd rank prince. (See history snippet in rosemandarin.tuilleries.com for all ranks.) Actually there are 15 dragons total in the pattern or design (see below). The silk robe is a deep navy blue and quite large, 57 inches long with a 44 inch wide bottom, and about 85 inches cuff to cuff. The stitchery is very fine. And every stitch is with golden metallic thread. Even the various auspicious symbols are in gold thread. There is a similar one at the San Diego Museum for a lower rank prince in black ground and all metallic threads.
The dragon details are extraordinary and reserved for Imperial use. The front and back are symmetrical with 3 large dragons each, plus 2 on the shoulders. There is a hidden 9th large golden dragon chasing the flaming pearl inside the right front flap when the robe is wrapped around you (see sketch of design pattern). The border band which goes around the edge and the neck have a total of 4 smaller dragons of which one is full length going up the band. Finally there is a full dragon on each sleeve band. Note the dragon detail on the cuffs and the neck band. I date this circa 1890. The pleated black lower sleeves above the wrist is a late 19th century court fashion. And see the detail in the decorative gilt buttons.
Condition of the robe is very good, 99% of the gold thread is there. Neck band area has some fray and sleeve area also. This fraying is only at the join of the band to the blue robe. It is clean and unwrinkled, and ready for display.
Additional notes below from John Vollmer's -- Ruling from the Dragon Throne --- Ten Speed Press, 2002.
p. 85. "Manchu nobles to the rank of third-degree prince used blue; ..."
p.101 "The four larger dragons were confined to the upper part of the coat. Pairs of smaller, confronted dragons were placed on the coat skirs at the front and back, with a fifth smaller dragon placed out of sight on the panel ...overlap. This unseen dragon brought the total to nine, a number associated in ancient Daoist or Taoist numerology with infinity and notions of heaven.
p.104 discusses the arrangement of the 9 large dragons if you laid out the robe flat, figuratively unfolding at the axis of the sleeve tops.