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.