The Mongol Century: Visual Cultures of Yuan China, 1271–1368 0824851455, 9780824851453

The Mongol Century explores the visual world of China's Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), the spectacular but relatively sh

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The Mongol Century: Visual Cultures of Yuan China, 1271–1368
 0824851455, 9780824851453

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t h e m o n g o l c e n t u r\

THE MONGOL CENTURY Visual Cultures of Yuan China, 1271–1368 Shane Mc Causland

reaktion books

Published by Reaktion Books Ltd 33 Great Sutton Street London ec1v 0dx, uk First published 2014 Copyright © Shane McCausland 2014 Published with the assistance of The Getty Foundation This publication is made possible in part from the Barr Ferree Foundation Fund for Publications, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University All rights reserved No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers Printed and bound in China by C&C Offset Printing Co. Ltd A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library isbn 978 1 78023 366 6







Empress Chabi, Consort of Khublai Khan (detail of illus. 28).

he issue of how we position or reposition the culture of China under Mongol rule during the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) with regard to Eurasian history and also China’s history is a vexing one. After the Mongols were expelled from China at the fall of the Yuan in 1368, historians of the native Chinese Ming dynasty (1368–1644), working with a cyclical model of Chinese dynastic history, could not but recognize that beginning with the Mongol khan Khubilai, known to them by his Chinese imperial temple name, Shizu (Generational Ancestor; r. 1260–94), the Mongols did hold the ‘mandate of Heaven’ (tian ming), the cosmological legitimacy to form a dynasty ruling China. Since only one regime could hold the mandate at any one moment, the Yuan only received it after the death of the Song dynasty’s (960–1279) last emperor – the child emperor – Bingdi, in 1279, a moment which marked the end of a dynasty established more than three centuries previously, in 960. The ‘mandate of Heaven’ concept brings order and sequence to the large unifying empires of China’s history, but may do less justice to the fragmentary and intercultural regionalism of periods of disunion or ‘foreign’ rule. In the long view so distinctive of Chinese historicism, the fall of the Song thus represented the conclusion of the third great unifying empire of China’s dynastic era, after the Han (202 bce–220 ce) and the cosmopolitan Tang (618–907). In reality, the Song had long since diminished as a polity, its back broken by the national crisis of 1126–7, when the aesthete-emperor Huizong (r. 1100–25) and most of the Song imperial family were captured by, and the north of China forever lost to, invading Jurchens of the Jin (Golden) dynasty (1115– 1234). Although the Song royal line continued and the court was reestablished at Hangzhou, this ‘crossing to the south’ (as it was euphemistically called) and subsequent efforts at dynastic revival triggered an inward turn in the Song cultural psyche. In the post-Yuan Chinese worldview, the incorporation of the Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279) into the Mongol Yuan empire in 1279 could be 

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finessed as a re-unification of China after a century and a half of political division following the loss of the north in 1127. That post-Yuan focus on the track of the mandate of Heaven through native-ruled south China, which had a tendency to fetishize the culture of southern Chinese refugees and dissenters (‘left-over people’, yimin) during the Yuan itself, was hardly disinterested from contemporary politics in late imperial China, although that is not an issue that can be followed up here. In a more Burkhardtian reality, one that is global in outlook, one might prefer to see the conquest of the Southern Song as representing its incorporation into a vast Mongol Yuan empire, one far larger than just China, including also Mongolia, parts of Inner and Southeast Asia, including Tibet, and the Korean peninsula. The issue of how alien a regime the Yuan was in Chinese history is not just a feature of native Chinese Ming and later sources in China but remains even in modern studies like the Cambridge History of China: the volume which covers the Yuan, published in 1994, is entitled ‘Alien Regimes and Border States’. It treats also the Liao (907–1125) of the proto-Mongol Khitans in the northeast; the Xi Xia (1038–1227) of the Tanguts in the northwest, who enjoyed close cultural ties with Tibetans; and the Jurchen Jin dynasty in the north, as well as the early Mongol period in north China in the thirteenth century up to the moment Khubilai, in the manner of an emperor of China, named his East Asian empire the Yuan (yuan  in Chinese means ‘prime’) in 1271. Usefully, though, this construction of history offers a framework for understanding, from the perspective of observers in China, the Mongols’ relentless military encroachment from their ancestral heartlands around Lake Baikal across and south of the Eurasian steppe, to form the largest contiguous empire in world history. The term ‘Mongol Yuan’ (in Chinese ‘Meng Yuan’) is coming into wider use to refer to the era beginning with Chinggis khan’s establishment of the Yeke Mongghol Ulus (Great Mongol Nation) in 1206 and ending with the overthrow of the Yuan by the Ming in 1368. As portrayed in accounts from the Secret History of the Mongols, written after Chinggis’s death in 1227, to Sergei Bodrov’s visually compelling film Mongol (2007), it was the destiny of a charismatic warrior named Temüjin to unite the Turkic–Mongol tribal confederations under the yasa or Mongol code of law, proclaim himself Chinggis khan (‘oceanic sovereign’) at a khuriltai summit of Mongol leaders in 1206, and establish a Mongol empire that would rule the world. Chinggis himself led campaigns into north China and deep into Inner Asia, sometimes massacring whole populations though – significantly – sparing skilled artisans and clerics, before he died after a hunting accident in 1227. Some peoples like the Uighurs, who gave the Mongols a script, rallied to his cause and were rewarded. Others understood how to preserve life, such as the formidable Khitan statesman and Confucian scholar Yelü Chucai (1190–1244), 

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who persuaded Chinggis that north China was worth more as a source of tax revenue than as a people-less extension of the steppe grassland. After 1227, successors in the Chinggisid line inherited the mantle of Mongol conquerors: the empire continued to expand across Eurasia as far as the Adriatic (1248), causing Europe to tremble, until the 1250s when its sheer size made it seemingly ungovernable by a single khan. In a coup, Khubilai, Chinggis’s grandson by his youngest son Tolui (1192–1232), seized power in Mongolia and north China, and the empire dissolved into four khanates. At least in theory, Khubilai was the khaghan, or great khan, and his empire the senior of the four khanates (see illus. 1). This situation was recognized in the name of the Il-khan (or sub-khan) empire (1256–1335) in Persia under Khubilai’s elder brother Hulagu (r. 1256–65), if not in that of the Chagatai khanate (1225–1370) in Central Asia, named after Chinggis’s second son Chagatai (d. 1242), or the Kipchak khanate of the Golden Horde in Russia ruled by successors of Chinggis’s eldest son Jochi (d. 1227), which lasted until 1920. Situated where the axes of a diachronic China and a synchronic Mongol empire meet, the Yuan, though short-lived, is a nugget, a cultural moment of compelling interest. Our core focus here is on the cultural sphere of China during the Yuan, from the context of Khubilai’s foundation of the dynasty with its capital at Dadu (Beijing) in the early 1270s, through its fraying and disintegration, to its eventual toppling by the native Chinese Ming regime in 1368, followed by the expulsion of foreigners, almost exactly a century later. It is a period bookended and historically framed by Chinese regimes, one that provides the opportunity to consider the fate of Chinese statecraft, institutions, law and letters under Mongol rule as well as the legacy of the Yuan in later Chinese culture. State institutions, rights and liabilities in the tax and legal systems were keyed to the distinctive Yuan social order. The Mongol government imposed a hierarchy upon Yuan society whereby Mongols occupied the top rank, followed by the so-called semu (or semuren  , literally, ‘people with coloured eyes’) referring mainly to the Central and Inner Asian peoples whose loyalty to the Mongols had been long proven. The residents of China proper were divided into the Han – people who had lived in the north China region under the former Jin, who were not necessarily ethnic Chinese and had come under Mongol rule during the mid-thirteenth century – and, lowest in status, ‘southerners’ (nanren or nanman or manzi), subjects of the former Southern Song dynasty whom the Mongols regarded with some suspicion as a different race from the Han. After the fall of the Song in 1279, some southerners joined with their Chinese-educated counterparts in the north, the Han, and any sympathetic semu and Mongols in pressing the case at court for adopting Chinese systems and 

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values, such as the relatively meritocratic examination system, based on the humanism of the Confucian classics and Chinese historiography, as a tool for official recruitment as well as policy development and cultural consolidation. This usually meant opposing powerful Mongol and semu figures of higher status charged with conducting the government according to the default Mongol preference for fiscal-driven administration, which prioritized revenue generation often through oppressive taxation, and compendious patronage of, for example, Buddhist and other religious orders. Where the Mongols did adopt Chinese institutions this was done by creating parallel systems comprising Mongols and semu in a first stream and Han and southerners in a second. Still, given the context of the Yuan as part of the Mongol empire across Eurasia, a leitmotif of the Yuan culture which developed is its transnationalism. This is an idea that should be understood, as K. N. Chaudhury has put it, in terms of an ‘Asia before Europe’, that is, before the intervention of an early modern Europe.¹ In the context of a study on the Venetian merchant Marco Polo (1254–1323?), Susan Whitfield has also pertinently warned of ‘the perils of dichotomous thinking’ about East and West.² Even the name China, by which we know the self-styled Middle Kingdom today, was not yet in common use. Visitors to China including the Flemish missionary William of Rubruck (c. 1210–c. 1270), Marco Polo and the Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta (1304– 1377) in the 1340s knew China by its Mongol names: Cathay for north China and Manggi or Manzi for the south.³ The Mongolian word for China even today is Khitai (from which Cathay), which may derive from the Khitan people who ruled north China as the Liao dynasty. Manggi or Manzi would appear to be the Mongolian equivalent of the Chinese manzi , meaning (ironically) ‘southern barbarians’. Looking through Chinese eyes, Polo’s almost exact contemporary, one of Yuan China’s most famous artists and statesmen, Zhao Mengfu (1254– 1322), like his peers in Yuan officialdom, conceived of their own time and place in the cosmos using the dynastic term Da Yuan (‘Great Yuan’) in official contexts, and spoke of China as Zhongguo (‘Middle Kingdom’) if they were referring geographically to the place in relation to other parts of the world, mainly East Asia.4 The modern Chinese guotai , which would seem to be a Chinese transliteration of Cathay or Khitai, occasionally appears in the Yuan.5 Regarded as the single most influential figure of the Yuan in Chinese art history, Zhao Mengfu, a scion of the Song royal family, established parameters for the preservation and transmission of China’s elite arts and cultural heritage, reshaping such key mechanisms of communication as Chinese calligraphy in his image, promoting a highly legible yet also classically informed calligraphic ‘font’ (known as Zhao ti, ‘Zhao style’) and direct writing style – all in strong contrast 

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with the more flowery and hermetic poetic modes of the former Song. A cultural leader, statesman and artist with close access to the Mongol royal family and who held leading positions in institutions like the Hanlin Academy – which was responsible for drafting the khan’s edicts and writing China’s history – and the Confucian school system, Zhao Mengfu’s career and art mediated between diverse sections of Yuan society, but also between Song China and posterity. His recourse to the Chinese past as an agent of Yuan cultural transformation powerfully shaped the future of the art canon. Meanwhile, the texts he transcribed for stone steles at official and religious buildings, which represent the largest component of his artistic legacy today, had a major impact on the whole of literate society.6 As it turned out over the course of the Mongol century, this Yuan model of empire, in which Chinese institutions such as the examination system were often suspended, was in Chinese dynastic terms a dysfunctional form of government. Although steppe culture underlay contributions such as the development of commerce and infrastructure with a high-speed communications and security network, it was responsible for internecine strife and also alcoholism in the Mongol royal line; officialdom was plagued by corruption and factionalism; and climate change sparked logistical challenges that the regime was unable to meet while Yuan society frayed. After its fall, the culture of the period was quickly reframed as a set of Chinese cultural reactions to this vicious circle. A reactionary Chinese reform of culture was initiated under the early Ming regime by statesmen like Song Lian (1310–1381), one of the chief architects of the re-Confucianization of the bureaucracy and state under the founding Ming emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang (Hongwu, r. 1368–98). The impact of the Yuan on the course of Chinese history is clear to see in reactions against it, such as the expulsion of Mongols and other ‘foreigners’ from Ming China and the denigration of a regime that had contrived to lose the mandate of Heaven in short order, but also in some important continuities. Those continuities would include the championing of military (wu) values by the early Ming emperors over and above the civil (wen) values and ethics, humanism and antiquarianism of the Chinese scholar class. Around the time the first Ming ruler chose the name Hongwu (‘flood of martiality’) emperor, the scholar Cao Zhao published his masterful study Gegu yaolun (The essential criteria of antiquities) in the new Ming capital Nanjing in 1388. The tradition of scholar painting, nurtured by Zhao Mengfu and his followers, the Four Yuan Masters, continued quietly – as long as the new Painting Academy at court, modelled on its Song Chinese predecessor, dominated the cultural agenda in the early to mid-Ming – but would from the mid- to late Ming on provide China’s dominant aesthetic mode and its artistic canon. Drama is recognized as having reached a high tide mark in the Yuan. Ming emperors continued to lavish patronage on Buddhism. The blue-and-white 

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porcelain industry established under the Yuan at Jingdezhen in Jiangxi province grew and its products continued to be marketed along land and maritime networks across the known world, eventually giving Europeans a new name for China. The expeditionary fleets commanded by the eunuch admiral Zheng He under the Yongle emperor (r. 1402–24) reached westward from China as far as Africa. When the same emperor shifted the capital back to Beijing, a palimpsest on the ruins of the Yuan capital Dadu, where it remains, China was literally founded on Cathay. The diachronics of Chinese historiography, upon which sinologists depend, must be taken seriously if we are to recognize traditional Chinese modes of transmission and commentary at play in the Yuan context; but to understand the full spectrum of agency in these modes, it is also necessary to take a synchronic approach, to see beyond the historicization of the Yuan in its Ming aftermath, that is, to wish to recognize the topicality of references within the wider framework of the Mongol empire.7 One aim of this book is to try to gauge the state of Yuan culture before the Ming as a way to reassess the Yuan contribution to regional and historical culture.

To draw out the distinctiveness of Yuan culture, I want to introduce some specific themes beginning with steppe lifestyle, moving onto the relatively short lifespan of the dynasty and finally coming to the set of values placed by the Mongols on people and things. First, then, what impact did the culture of the Mongol homelands have in the formation of the Yuan polity? A notable characteristic of Yuan culture is its apparently incongruous situation between pastoralist/hunter nomad culture and the sedentary, agrarian civilization of China. The material records of Mongol customs and lifestyles, including their campaigning, hunting and feasting, and the rituals and rites associated with these activities, help us to understand Mongol social order, beliefs, values and decision-making processes. Nor should we forget the ultimate ambition to rule the world and the legitimation of this aim conferred by membership of the Chinggisid royal line. New research has provided a foundation for understanding Mongol militarism in the context of Eurasian and world history.8 But here we are concerned more with what happened to culture when that steppe lifestyle was transposed south across the actual and symbolic divide of the Great Wall and into the metropolis and the sedentary state of China and its new purpose-built metropolis at Dadu/Beijing. In historical thinking in late imperial China, the cyclical model of dynasties was bundled with a narrative of sinicization whereby foreigners who (and foreign 

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things which) came to China were not seen to appropriate or command the agency of China’s undoubtedly long and venerable civilization but naturally to accede to its effects. The allure of China’s ancient and rich cultural heritage is not in doubt, but the narrative of Hanhua, whereby foreigners and foreign things in China gradually ‘become Han’ through exposure to it, remains ingrained even in sections of modern scholarship, despite at times seeming to go against the evidence. Still, we are at a point where new research is showing the idea of Han ethnogenesis to be an early modern phenomenon of the Ming in the fifteenth century.9 Evidence presented in this book suggests that the visibility of foreign things was not only widespread in Yuan China, but that people actively engaged in culture in China held remarkably untroubled attitudes toward that foreignness or status quo: this is seen even in discussions of China’s canonically highest art form, brush calligraphy, which was patently not immune to contemporary ‘influence’, foreign or otherwise. Whatever it plays up in Chinese history, a sinicization narrative also identifies significant cultural blind spots, such as the role of women, for instance through intermarriage, and of trade in the integration of races in Yuan society and culture. If drivers for convergences with Chinese culture, such as commerce and miscegenation, are beginning to receive some scholarly attention, there is as yet little recognition of any inverse impact, ‘becoming alien’ (huhua). The relatively high status of women in steppe culture is notable here. It in part explains the prominence of some exemplary women in Yuan history and the consequent interest of historians of Mongol history, such as Morris Rossabi, in one of the few Chinese women of the dynastic period for whom we have some material sources, Guan Daosheng (1264–1319), an artist in her own right and wife of the above-mentioned Zhao Mengfu.¹0 Equally anomalous in Chinese art history is the prominence of the Mongol princess–collector and elder sister of the khan Ayurbarwada (Renzong, r. 1311–20), Sengge Ragi (c. 1282–1332), whose role has not been entirely occluded from the material record, despite the occasional later tampering with her seals on artworks. The concept of pluralism in Yuan culture advanced in the early 2000s by a pioneering exhibition of Yuan painting at the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is beginning to be seen more widely, for example in studies of Yuan architectural history, which now explore the steppe origins of features of palace building, and also in ceramic studies.¹¹ The permeability of East Asian and other cultures within a hierarchical, imperialist polity is not just a notable characteristic of the Yuan period but is also an interpretive concept that ought to be part of the analytical framework. A second theme is the remarkably compressed lifecycle of the Yuan dynasty. Weighed against the seeming permanence of Chinese culture and the centurieslong duration of the major empires in Chinese history, the short-lived Yuan 

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certainly appears ephemeral. If only for that reason, it is important to assess the agency and specificity of Chinese coping mechanisms in these circumstances, such as choices to make Chinese culture more intelligible and the referencing of past precedent, and ways of interpreting the present and making China’s heritage relevant in the Yuan context. At the same time, although its political context is short, there is no reason to see Yuan culture in totality and indeed it makes sense to regard it as a sequence of short phases of political and even environmental developments, all with cultural consequences. In the post-dissolution era, Khubilai’s reign may be divided into its expansionist beginning and, after the founding of the Yuan in 1271, its consolidating end. For sure, the middle Yuan rulers inherited the pax Mongolica but the bridging period, 1311 to 1332, represents an apparent contradiction: a rapid and destabilizing sequence of Chinese-educated, if not wholly sinicized khans on the throne, who incorporated time-tested pillars of Chinese statecraft, such as the examination system and literary culture, in the Yuan political system more widely. Meanwhile, the long reign of the last Yuan khan, Togön Temür, from 1333 right up to 1370, gives a misleading impression of stability when in reality environmental and social challenges including floods, pestilence and the violence of banditry and rebellion compounded seizures at the political centre. After the Yuan court abandoned Beijing to the Ming in 1368, there was the expulsion of foreigners including Mongols and Christians from China by the Ming in 1368–9, and in 1371 the Hongwu emperor banned overseas private trade. The lifecycle of the Yuan dynasty was through in under a century. A third issue relates to Mongol values with regard to people and things. As far as human capital is concerned, the switch from Mongol conquest and expansion to cultural consolidation signalled by Khubilai’s foundation of the Yuan in 1271 did not put an end to certain existential questions about the fate of conquest territories, notably north China. While the south – and by extension southerners – was valued as a rice basket which could subsidize the less-developed north, policy questions remained about the best use of the north China plain: it and its inhabitants had previously been saved from being turned into a pastoral extension of the steppe by the intervention of the great Khitan statesman Yelü Chucai, who persuaded Chinggis of its value as a source of tax revenue. That the Mongols took sybaritic pleasure in the possession and display of fine and beautiful things, from gold to women, had important consequences for Yuan art and royal and official patronage. Official Chinese sources, particularly in the early Yuan, highlight vehement disagreements between the semu financiers and advocates of a more benevolent, Chinese, people-oriented model of government. In a form of command economy system not unrecognizable in 

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China today, the greatest economic benefits in the Yuan accrued through the ortogh system to the Mongol nobility and their mainly Muslim partners in the ruling and mercantile elites. Proponents of benevolent Han-style government could propose relief from the burdens which the state placed on the common people but would have had little power to influence decisions about issues like the movement of people such as skilled craftsmen and beautiful women as tribute along with rare and precious things and resources, evinced by Yuan demands for women from the Koryo˘ royal family.¹² The vassal state of Korea thus provided a late Yuan empress. The Mongols have long been defamed for their militarism and materialism – in European history since the Holy Roman Emperor and German king Frederick ii (r. 1220–50) described them as ‘cohorts of Satan’ and ‘children of Hell’.¹³ Such prejudices still pertained when the discipline of art history was fledged: in the first English-language history of Asiatic art, Ernest Fenollosa (1853–1908) described the Mongols as a ‘world scourge’.¹4 Then, in 1923, the sinologist Arthur Waley stated that the Mongols were mere policemen, who had no more influence on the artists of China than the policemen at the gate of the British Museum did on the scholars working within.¹5 Similarly, sinological perspectives have tended to deflate any Mongol contribution to Chinese art history, an effect seen for example in the uncertainty about blue-and-white porcelain being a Yuan invention. Such views were only unseated in the mid-twentieth century by the publication of the David vases, dated 1351, which provide a date for the Zhizheng (1341–68) group to which they belong, ceramics so-called after the last Yuan reign name. It is not clear when this memory loss occurred, at what point one of the major Mongol Yuan contributions to Chinese and world culture could be credited to the native Ming. Today, the issue raised by new finds of Yuan blue-and-white ceramics is how to define the complex, collaborative nature of interactions between Persian and Chinese potters under Mongol patronage – a problem unimaginable even a few decades ago and a fly in the ointment of any sinicization narrative for Yuan culture. While the ‘sinology versus art history’ debate, mooted by John Pope in 1947, has never gone away, it has moved on.¹6 Current research on art and culture in Mongol China, as in the field of Chinese art generally, shows empirical and positivist modes juxtaposed with synchronic, intercultural and critical enquiry.¹7 To scorn the Mongols’ love of finery, the ownership and display of power, may be to miss a trick, given the significance of sumptuary laws in Mongol and Chinese social orders alike. Gold was a supreme signifier of status, being not just a means to display status but also a way to refer to Chinggis khan and the royal line.¹8 Mongol khans had the whole canon of Buddhist scriptures, the tripitaka, transcribed numerous times in gold ink for the salvation of their 

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predecessors and demanded that vassal states like Kory o˘ send calligraphers to Dadu to participate in these sutra-writing projects.¹9 The exhibition, When Silk was Gold, has vividly reconstructed this world.²0 In the wake of a recent study by Jonathan Hay which celebrates the luxurious qualities of material things, albeit later, in the early modern period, the lesson for this volume is to take a critical, broad approach to a wide range of visual media.²¹

What can be said about the present situation in the study of Mongol Yuan visual arts? Their taxonomy and display continue to be defined by art canons and hierarchies, and by modern nation states, but also by a growing critical debate. National issues have long surfaced in exhibitions. Leafing through the catalogue of Sherman Lee’s 1968 exhibition, Chinese Art Under the Mongols: The Yüan Dynasty (– ad), the visual impact of this seminal, foundational show is scarcely diminished today, despite it containing nothing from the then self-isolated People’s Republic of China. More recently, Mongol-related art exhibitions have contributed to the definition of national cultures in the modern nation states as in Goryeo Dynasty: Korea’s Age of Enlightenment, – at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco in 2003–4 and The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 2010, which rehearsed the argument for seeing Yuan art as Chinese art.²² In the latter, although the plot-line of assimilation to autochthonous culture underlay the way Yuan art was narrated, the treatment of objects and selection of themes – such as the role of the Mongol nasij (‘cloth of gold’) and Yuan zaju (‘drama’) – as well as the Mongol emphasis on consummate craftsmanship suggested what an integrated approach to visual arts of the Mongol empire could achieve. It is hard to conceive now how any study of Yuan visual sources could go ahead without recognizing the importance of a transcultural approach or indeed the importance in the Mongol world of superb and innovative craftsmanship in production, with all that implies about imperial power across the continent and seas. The study of ceramics, for instance, has been seen to lie at the intersection of several disciplines and areas of the world – a stunning 2012 exhibition of Yuan blue-and-white ceramics at the Shanghai Museum featured objects in collections from Tokyo to St Petersburg, but with notable lacunae.²³ This general study necessarily builds on these grounds, as well as pioneering intercultural studies, such as Priscilla Soucek’s 1999 examination of ceramics as an exemplar of Yuan–Il-khanid relations and ones by James Cahill, Nancy Steinhardt and others.²4 The growing interest in recent decades in the social dimensions of art and culture has served to highlight some deserved aspects of the Mongol visual world, 

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such as the roles in Yuan China of non-Chinese and women. During most of the twentieth century, research in ‘Chinese art history’ long bore down on the scholar culture of south China. The turn of the millennium saw interpretive attitudes shift from the academy to the museum world, as with the 2001 exhibition Age of the Great Khan in Taipei, just mentioned, which turned a spotlight on the multiethnic and transnational fabric of Yuan elite culture, especially in the mid-fourteenth century.²5 The emphasis on selfhood, and the new visual forms of that, remained but now Mongol and Uighur names began to sit comfortably alongside more familiar Chinese ones. Meanwhile, Japan remains an important ‘window on China’, a repository of all manner of visual resources that have not chanced to survive in China, especially Chan/Zen Buddhist visual sources.²6 Many interregional issues remain to be explored, however.²7 The appearance of volume xxxvii of the journal Ars Orientalis in 2009, entitled ‘Current Directions in Yuan Painting’, illustrated the present diversity of art-historical approaches to Yuan scholar painting. In some cases, Yuan visual art continues to be explored as the culmination of the historical continuum of medieval China, the Tang–Song–Yuan corridor of dynastic history. In others, ‘literati art’ is a bygone, as the inherited canon and its related concerns are increasingly historicized and deconstructed. The challenge now is to account for the Yuan visual world in all its intellectual, regional and social complexity. We turn now to consider what kinds of objects got made in the Yuan. The body of material evidence available for a general study like this is by its nature dynamic and growing. Unrecovered hoards of luxury goods, mural-painted tombs, shipwrecked cargoes and other types of archaeological find continue to occur in the East Asian region, refreshing and challenging more canonical assemblies in museums and beyond. These objects, including scrolls of calligraphy and painting with colophon sets and applied arts – ceramics, jades, lacquer, furniture, metalware, textiles and clothing and objects of material culture like money, tallies, equestrian tack and weapons – are now increasingly available in digital form online, as are illustrated books and manuals mainly in libraries. It is likely that temples and shrines, particularly in the region of northwest China, Mongolia, Tibet and Central Asia will continue to reveal cultural artefacts such as murals and sculptures of interest to researchers as images find their way online and access improves.²8 As for chronologies of these material remains, redatings will inevitably occur, as for the Zhizheng ceramics and recently for cloisonné enamels.²9 Indeed, more certain dating for all categories of visual arts would be useful, although in the case of media like jade, which can be recarved, this aim is unrealistic. This general situation has its counterpart in art texts such as the connoisseur Cao Zhao’s Gegu yaolun of 1388, which has been regarded as exemplifying early Ming taste while 

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evidence of the sharp differences with mid- or late Yuan taste is yet to be advanced. In addition, despite research pressure on some well-known relevant artworks from other parts of the Mongol empire, like the so-called Istanbul albums in the Topkapi Library, these remain puzzles: seemingly random sets of album leaves show some forms of Chinese ‘influence’, and by different hands, rather than the individual Siyah Qalem (Black Pen), dating from the late thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries.³0 Considering the impact of the Yuan on culture in China, what broad patterns can be distinguished in the visual record, here at the outset of this study? Yuan cultural objects took on formal characteristics in the wake of the Mongols’ tribal roots and lifestyle. The speed and power of Mongol equestrian militarism underpinned transcontinental trade (and tribute) routes and the empire-wide communications network, a postal system managed by the Board of War. Yuan culture was founded on the easy translation of things, ideas, people, skills and languages, and it is hardly a surprise that the public, visual forms of the Yuan, such as the written form of languages, were direct and legible. Among the Mongol nobility, the diversity of languages and religious beliefs, education and intermarriage with non-steppe populations is mirrored in diverse patronage of the arts across a range of religions and arts at a time when material things could embody realities of wealth and power. Portability is another characteristic and bore upon aspects like size and visibility for display as well as function and sensory appeal. The haptic qualities of the prized Mongol nasij, its rich textural feel for instance, is seen across other media in China from lacquer to stone carving to ceramics with relief decor. These qualities could also be implied on flat surfaces since the motifs that enlivened surfaces could recall shallow relief effects while moving easily across media, as a ringed band of cloud-shaped lappets might move from the exterior of a ger (Russian: yurt), to the shoulders of a robe to the shoulders of a jar. The spotted skins of big animals could be worn or hung in tents, or appear as iron-spotted glazes on Longquan ceramics. Geometric effects from banded circular designs to symmetrical cartouches or forms to scrolling floral motifs and even illusionism adorn the surfaces of so many visual arts of the Yuan. Matching nomad mobility, objects often display intercultural qualities, embodying a pluralism and also a permeability that matches the geographic, linguistic and cultural span of the steppe across northern Eurasia and its southern counterpart, the sea. The visual qualities of media like textiles, jades and ceramics often resulted from the forced relocation of preserved craftsmen, materials and techniques across cultures. The cloth of gold combined a Mongol delight in gold with the quintessential Chinese material, silk; blue-and-white 

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resulted from the transplant of Persian skills and cobalt to China’s porcelain city of Jingdezhen, a transcontinental commercial enterprise of Muslim merchant ortogh and Mongol nobility. Although mass production of objects of material culture was hardly an innovation, it was a characteristic, as the ceramic cargoes of shipwrecks attest, born of technical development. As far as ceramic technique goes, press moulding and throwing were well adapted to mass production, while ceramics from some of the most productive kilns in East Asia, at Longquan and Jingdezhen, also took on the stoutly potted forms of their functions – the practical creation of ritual vessels, jars, jugs, dishes, cups and so on for what they are – rather than adapting their shapes and decor to evoke intangible naturalistic forms. The appearance of classical Chinese forms in ceramics and bronze in Mongol China may have more to do with respect for ritual and belief in daemonic powers than with admiration for China’s classical antiquity per se – and this may have lessons for how we understand artistic production by the elite. Juxtapositions of distinctive cultural modes also appeared in Yuan China, as seen in the southern port city of Quanzhou (the Zaytoon of travellers’ accounts), or with the contemporary appearance of fleshy Indic and hieratic Sinic Buddhist stone sculptures in Hangzhou. The city of Dadu was built to a Chinese grid plan, based on an ideal from the Confucian classics; located within the city walls around the imperial palaces were the organs of government – various ministries with their boards, academies for research, records and predictions, garrisons, treasuries and storehouses. However, its imperial parks were decked with grass transplanted from the steppe and encampments of ger lined with animal skins, and many of the suburbs were reserved for pasture. At times, the capitals at Dadu and, in the summer months when the khan was in residence, Shangdu (Xanadu) must have seemed as much like grand hunting encampments as seats of government and learning. How then do we make sense of such a wealth of material? The idea of a unifying ‘period style’ has had its day as the role of the visual arts as agents of change or stasis, as mediators, carriers and drivers of ideas, desires and dissent comes to the fore. The visual arts of the indigenous peoples conquered and ruled, and sometimes displaced by the Mongols unavoidably respond to Mongol culture and practice of government. Yuan drama (zaju), a major resource for social history, was also a significant theme in illustrated woodblock-print publishing and a source of motifs for ceramic decoration from Cizhou to Jingdezhen. Many of the themes dealt with social and juridical injustices of the regime. The impact of the Mongol regime is profoundly seen in the artistic practice and discourse of the intellectual elite in China, for whom humanist concerns were paramount. Some Song loyalists like the orchid painter Zheng Sixiao (1239–1316) would never be wholly reconciled to Mongol rule and theirs is an art of dissent. Still, for 

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a majority, despite being two-tiered and much interrupted, the civil service examination system continued to embody Chinese humanist ideals and aspirations for justice and sound government. We need to be very alert, however, to subtle changes in the function of traditional modes of discourse, such as the use of the past and the lyric voice. Zhao Mengfu is an example of an artist who reprises China’s past styles and type-forms in his painting, often for autobiographical purposes, but has no compunction in combining them with references and allusions to present realities, such as the presence of so many non-Chinese in China, thereby making the case for the relevance and value of Chinese culture in a Mongol world. It is small wonder he has alternately been reviled as a traitor and hailed as a pivotal figure.³¹ All manner of traditional painting subjects take on new meaning in the Mongol context. While Chinese-educated painters would have read fine horses as symbols of human talent, which require selection and nurture, they could have counted on Mongols’ love of fine horseflesh to enable the message inherent in such images to cross cultures. At the same time, other uses of the past take on an ironic twist. Images of reclusion, for example, traditionally represented an individual withholding his talents from public service in protest – which becomes a self-irony when one’s services are all but excluded. Indeed, a concern with selfhood, seen in the development of self-portraiture and lyric or autobiographic modes of painting, and in the development of meta-realist techniques, is a distinctive characteristic of early Yuan painting. It has consequences, too, for the development of the art market in mid- and late Yuan, as eccentric and/or experimental forms of calligraphy appeared and hybrid scholar–professional modes became prominent.

The chapters that follow combine chronological and thematic approaches to Yuan culture insofar as I have, as appropriate, selected an event or innovation of a particular moment, or a decade or phase of the dynasty, as the starting point for a wider discussion about cultural matters and issues of the day. Developing some of the issues raised above, more specific questions about production and meaning are posed at the start of each chapter. The book begins with an exploration of the capital city that Khubilai commissioned in the 1260s and was founded in the 1270s. Chapter Two uses the scandalous desecration of the Song royal tombs outside the former Song capital Hangzhou in the 1280s as a way to explore the variety of reactions among southern Chinese to Khubilai’s invasion of the south in 1276–9 and his incorporation of the Southern Song into the Yuan dynasty. Chapter Three is a chance to analyse the connections understood to exist between the cosmos, the environment and the 

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world of people, by exploring reactions to natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons and other such phenomena, notably those late in Khubilai’s reign in the 1290s. In chapter Four, we step into a new phase of Yuan government in China under Khubilai’s successors of the early fourteenth century, when a Chineseeducated khan, Ayurbarwada, ascended the throne in 1311 and began to re-institute some traditional Chinese forms of government, such as the civil service examination system, to wide acclaim among Chinese if not among Mongols. Chapter Five explores what was arguably the culmination of this trend, despite the political context of bloody internecine struggle among the Mongol royal family in the 1320s, namely the foundation by another khan of an elite academy of art and literature, which in principle existed as a beacon to disseminate core literary values from China’s tradition. The closing two chapters deal with a polity fast unravelling in the reign of the last Yuan khan between the 1330s and 1360s. Chapter Six investigates the situation in the arts and the governing class’s response to a world increasingly wracked by natural disasters that were hard to contain and the consequent civil unrest. The final chapter addresses a major conundrum of the late Yuan, specifically how, amid the dystopian scenario that has been hard-wired into China’s canonical narrative for this period, industrial enterprises in culture such as the porcelain factories of south China were able to build global brands for the Yuan, including the one – blue-and-white – that would soon be synonymous with China.





1 Map of the Mongol empire, 1294.

hubilai khan’s Chinese-style metropolis was known in Chinese as Dadu (literally, ‘great city’), by Mongols as Daidu (after the Chinese) and in Turkic languages as Khanbalikh, ‘city of khans’.¹ Europeans like Marco Polo referred to it as Cambaluc. Today it is called Beijing, the northern capital. Since Khubilai was the Mongol khaghan (‘khan of khans’ or ‘Great Khan’), nominally it was, from its opening in 1274, also the capital of the Mongol empire in Eurasia (illus. 1). A reality of the mid-thirteenth-century dissolution of the Mongol empire was, however, that only the Il-khanid (‘sub-khan’) regime of Persia, under Khubilai’s brother Hulagu and his successors, recognized Khubilai as khaghan and Yuan as the prime khanate by name. Even if the Chagatai khans in Central Asia and Golden Horde or Kipchak khanate in Russia were more or less independent, nevertheless, Dadu was still one of the spectacular cities of the late medieval world. Although we look at aspects of architecture and urban planning, the aim here is rather to explore the cityscape of Dadu, the epicentre of the fledgling Yuan polity, from the perspective of a wider Yuan visual culture. The idea is to investigate the resplendence of the city as a function of the pluralist cultural mix shaped by the policies of Khubilai and his successors in Yuan China. Inevitably, this will expose some conflicts and contradictions inherent in the concept of a nomad metropolis in China and by China’s incorporation into the largest contiguous empire the world has seen. In sum, pictorial and other sources not usually employed are gathered to imagine the visual and cultural connections of the ‘city of khans’. In Towards a Geography of Art, Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann reminds us ‘how the history of art lies at the conjunction of the temporal and the spatial’, and this is apt here.² Khubilai ordered Dadu to be built as a winter capital in 1266; its foundation in 1272 (and first court gathering in the first month of 1274) marking also a political moment, namely Khubilai’s adoption of a Chinese dynastic name, the Great Yuan (‘beginning’), in 1271. The foundation also anti cipated the military conquest of south China; Hangzhou, the Southern Song 

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capital, fell shortly after, in 1276, and the Song dynasty was finally extinguished in 1279, inevitably a cultural trauma for that region with consequences, too, for the newly expanded Yuan. Dadu lay in a basin bounded to the north by the mountains and Great Wall (or walls) which divided the north China plain from the north Asian steppes of the Mongolian nomad confederacies. A Ming map of the terrestrial world of 1555, based on the pioneering work of the eminent Yuan cartographer Zhu Siben (1273–c. 1335), clearly shows this divide (illus. 2). Under Mongol patronage, Zhu Siben made prodigious advances in mapping accuracy, refining the use of a grid system to piece together continental maps from smaller-scale local maps, the result of extensive travel to carry out first-hand research, supplemented by local knowledge and with official local support.³ He constructed two maps, one of China and the other a ‘Chinese and foreigners map’ (huayi tu).4 Neither survives but Zhu’s work is believed to be the basis of the Ming atlas of 1555, that is, shortly before the arrival of European mapping technology with Matteo Ricci (1552– 1610) and his Jesuit mission. The extant map is a flat, square grid which recognizably shows China, distances apparently worked out using a method of collating local scaled drawings. One reason that local distances were so accurate was because of Khubilai’s investment in the postal system, the management of which was already deputed to an extensive bureaucracy in the Board of War. What the Ming map does not mark, but which is important for the Yuan, is the site of the Mongol capital in the summer months, Shangdu (Xanadu or ‘upper capital’), destroyed in 1359 and long a deserted ruin, which lies some 350 km to the northwest of Dadu.5 Further north and west, in the grasslands south of Lake Baikal, was Karakorum (largely abandoned in the fourteenth century and today a small town), the steppe capital and default site of the khuriltai (council of chieftains of the Mongol confederations) for selecting a khan by blood tanistry.6 The strategic importance of Dadu is underscored by the fact that of these three capitals, today only Beijing is a global metropolis. Lying just inside the north China plain, Yuan Dadu was a major hub in the continental communications and trade network established and maintained by the Mongol empire, the mercantile arm of which was managed by the ortogh or merchant associations of Western and Central Asians, mostly Muslim, who formed lucrative partnerships with the Mongol royal family and aristocracy. These routes criss-crossed the Eurasian continent along the Silk Roads and elsewhere, while maritime routes extended trade to East and Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean littoral and to Africa. Along one of these routes travelled diplomatic gifts such as the Fonthill vase, a piece of qingbai porcelain made at Jingdezhen in Jiangxi province in about 1300 (see illus. 121): it is of a type excavated from Dadu 

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2 General Map of the Terrestrial World (Yu di zongtu) from the Enlarged Terrestrial Atlas (Guang yu tu) of Luo Hongxian (1504–1564), 1555. This Ming map is thought to be based on a lost Yuan atlas by the cartographer Zhu Siben (1273–c. 1335), Yu di tu.

(see illus. 49) and one of the first such pieces to reach Europe, where it has had a distinguished provenance through aristocratic collections before ending up in its present home, the National Museum of Ireland. Dadu was a hub of that continental network and of the extensive and remarkably efficient postal system of the Mongol empire, yam (in Chinese, yamen), widely extended by Khubilai in China proper, which comprised relay stations at regular distances and allowed messengers, exchanging mounts, to travel over 100 miles a day. Authority to use the stations was conferred by a passport called a gerege or paiza made of wood, bronze, silver or gold according to the importance of the bearer. Along these routes travelled nobles and officials but also envoys and merchants such as Marco Polo and his family. A scene entitled ‘Kublai Khan (1214–1294) giving his golden seal to the Polos at his new capital Cambaluc’ is one of the first illustrations of Marco’s travels in the early fifteenth-century Livre des Merveilles du Monde in Paris. 7 In Persian painting too, we encounter these 

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passes, as in an illustration from Rashid al-Din’s (1247–1318) Jami’ al-Tawarikh, where one is held out by the retainer of a travelling lord (illus. 3). About a dozen of these paiza are extant. The ones illustrated here bear the standard inscription in Phagspa script (illus. 4), the Tibetan-based script invented by the Tibetan lama Phagspa (1235–1280) – a leading advisor to Khubilai – to write Mongolian, which had previously been written using Uighur script, and to transcribe Chinese. Despite its falling into disuse after the fall of the Yuan, there is evidence that Phagspa script enjoyed far wider currency in the Mongol period than is generally recognized; it even appeared on textiles in late medieval Europe. The political act of founding a sedentary capital at Dadu was no one-off but part of a coordinated series of initiatives including the creation of Phagspa script as the national script by a Tibetan lama. In this light, we can also recognize how the positioning of the city of Dadu might have been significant. It is important to note that much of north China had been devastated during the Mongol invasion and the siege of Yanjing, the Jin-dynasty capital, which fell in 1215. This founding in 1272 of Dadu, a city of perhaps half a million souls and the only major conurbation in north China, and the contingent improvement of communications 

3 ‘A lord travelling’, illustration (fragment) from Rashid al-Din’s Jami’ al-Tawarikh. Tabriz (?), first quarter of the 14th century; watercolours on paper. The extensive and remarkably efficient Mongol postal system was widely extended by Khubilai. Here we see a paiza or official pass in the hand of the follower of a nobleman. The pass enabled the bearer to make use of the official waystations. A similar composition showing Tang emperor Taizong travelling with retainers is seen on a Chinese painted blue-and-white jar in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (so.1339).

4 Two silver paiza (, ‘passes’) with inscriptions in Phagspa script. Mongol Yuan period, 13th century. The text states: ‘By virtue of eternal Heaven, the name of the khans is sanctified. Whoever shows no respect shall be guilty and will die.’

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and transport networks across the region, represented a major political gesture on Khubilai’s part. It was concurrent with other necessary and ongoing public works projects including the taming and management of water resources for transport and irrigation in China. In 1280 Khubilai sent researchers to Qinghai to find the source of the Yellow River, which for the first time they located.8 He also renovated and extended the Grand Canal to the gates of Dadu, a vital necessity if he was to keep Dadu’s granaries full of southern grain. The founding of Dadu was, thus, the outward sign of a fundamental shift in imperial policy from militarist expansion to civic consolidation and empire building: the new beginning announced by Khubilai’s adoption of the Chinese dynastic name Da Yuan (‘great origin’ or ‘great prime’), a name taken at the suggestion of Khubilai’s northern Chinese advisor Liu Bingzhong (1216–1274) from the Chinese Confucian classic Yijing (Book of change).9 The city of Dadu itself was laid out, like other major medieval cities in China, according to a Chinese grid plan, based on an ideal described in the third-century bce classic Zhou li (Rites of Zhou), and built by designers and builders from China and many other parts of the empire, including the Muslim architect Yeheitie’er (active mid- to late thirteenth century).¹0 Dadu’s southern city wall (illus. 5) was built along the northern wall of Zhongdu (‘central city’, also called Yanjing), which had been the capital of the Khitan Liao and Jurchen Jin (1115–1234) dynasties, and also Khubilai’s summer capital in the early part of his reign. (The short move north solved a problem with the water supply; but not with the shortage of grain, which would be shipped from the rice basket of south China.) Dadu was not immediately destroyed at the fall of the Yuan dynasty to the native Chinese Ming in 1368, but was razed shortly after. The mid-fourteenth-century scholar Tao Zongyi (1346–1415) made a detailed record of the royal palaces and their decoration in his Chuo geng lu (Records compiled while resting from ploughing), published in about 1366.¹¹ Several decades later, under the usurper Yongle emperor, the decision was made to move the Ming capital back north, from Nanjing (‘southern capital’). Constructed on top of the ruins of Dadu between 1407 and 1420, Beijing (‘northern capital’) has remained China’s capital ever since, barring short interruptions. The grid of Khubilai’s Dadu is seen in the footprint of modern Beijing but little survives in the way of buildings: we are left to piece together and re-imagine Yuan Dadu, its visual characteristics and impressions. Notably, it was that contradictory thing, a capital built by steppe nomads as they consolidated rule in China. ¹² Within the city were Chinese-style royal ancestral temples and altars, markets and theatres, granaries and garrisons, residential and official precincts and royal palaces; but also Mongol parklands planted by Khubilai with imported 

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steppe grass, set aside for festivals and the pitching of tents. Incorporated into the city plan outside the walls were suburban grasslands for grazing horses as well as hunting reserves. We imagine the city using some of what survives and has been studied by scholars of architecture, but also explore how other visual sources, such as paintings, reflect the city. Although not much survives of Yuan Dadu, still we know from remains, finds and texts that it was a place of dazzling textures that gleamed with gold. Rich textures featured prominently on all kinds of media across the decorative programme. As for gold, this was a ubiquitous material in the top echelons of Mongol society. Indeed, Khubilai’s beloved second son and designated successor was given the Buddhist name Zhenjin (1243–1285) or True Gold.¹³ In addition to Chinese sources, Marco Polo described Dadu (and other Chinese cities like Hangzhou) as a bustling and beautiful place.¹4 Meanwhile, excavations and finds during the twentieth century have turned up some remarkable objects, including architectural fittings such as fierce animals sculpted in stone; ritual objects such as brightly coloured vases and censers (see illus. 26); and religious objects such as porcelain statues from Jingdezhen (see illus. 49). Finds from other places also provide evidence of popular culture: Jingdezhen-ware pillows modelled in the form of a stage with actors further illustrate the vibrancy of Yuan dramatic and musical arts (zaju), important sources for Yuan social history. Essentially, we have to reconstruct Dadu by a judicious comparison of archaeological finds with surviving materials from elsewhere and the use of written sources. An illustrative example of a remarkable surviving building near Dadu, situated 60 km north at Juyongguan on the Great Wall in a narrow pass, is the Cloud Terrace (Yuntai), which was once the base of a tiered temple dating to 1342–5, and is situated literally on top of the road through the pass (illus. 6). The interior of the arch at the base of the Cloud Terrace is decorated in a manner befitting its liminal position between China and Mongolia, on a main artery of transport and communications. There is a panel on each side, each containing an inscription in multiple languages. On one side is the Dharani Sutra (Tuoluoni jing zhou) in six languages: Sanskrit, Tibetan, Phagspa, Uighur, Tangut (the language of the Xi Xia dynasty) and Chinese. On the other side is the Jianta gongde ji (Record of merits in the construction of the pagoda) in all the above languages but Sanskrit (see illus. 132). The inscriptions are incised between relief sculptures of the four guardian kings of the cardinal directions (see illus. 23). Numerous Mongol-influenced characteristics of Yuan art and culture are immediately apparent, from the polyglot address to a pluralist audience, to the militarism and vigour of the figures (apparently evoking powerful Mongol physiques), to the rich textural quality to the relief carving and the decorated surfaces, and to the tantric spiritual interests. 

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6 Yuntai (Cloud Terrace) of 1342–5, on the Great Wall north of Beijing at Juyongguan, Changping county, Hebei province. A view of the arch from the south. The Garuda figure at the top of the arch reappears in many places and in many forms in Yuan China, for example, again in stone at Feilaifeng outside Hangzhou.

5 Plan of Dadu.

The discovery of pieces of masonry from Dadu (illus. 7) and the chance survival of the marble Rainbow Bridge in the Forbidden City and of ephemeral and perishable objects like silk embroidery (illus. 8) indicate a remarkable degree of consistency in the decoration of both permanent architectural fittings and portable things such as hangings. Bright colours and the widespread use of gold should be noted. The massive city wall of Dadu enclosed not just the imperial palace and many great granaries, treasuries and temples, but also major centres of learning. 

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Although these walls were almost all removed on Mao Zedong’s orders in the early stages of the People’s Republic, sections remain and old photos of Beijing’s city walls exist. These photos show the astronomical observatory on the east city wall (illus. 9). The astrological instruments (or rather the early modern replicas), which topped the walls of Yuan Dadu, can still be observed in situ today. Diagrams of such astronomical devices were brought to Khubilai’s court in China from the observatory in Azerbaijan by the Persian astronomer Jamal al-Din (active c. 1255–91) and shortly after were adapted by the leading Chinese astronomer of the early Yuan, Guo Shoujing (1231–1316).¹5 By chance, the site of another major Yuan observatory built by Guo Shoujing, the Guanxingtai (‘observing the stars tower’) near Dengfeng in Henan province has survived, although having been extensively repaired, it is not clear how much of it is original (see illus. 50). Dadu’s palaces are long gone and even though there were more than 100 temples in the city, little survives.¹6 One extant Beijing landmark, however, is the white pagoda of the White Pagoda Temple (Baitasi, also called Dashengshou wan’an si or Miaoyingsi), constructed between 1272 and 1288 and situated between the imperial palace (inner city) and the west city wall (illus. 10). The pagoda is the only one to survive of numerous buildings constructed by the Nepalese art impresario Anige (1245–1306), one of Khubilai’s leading architects and head of his ‘supervisorate-in-chief of all artisans’, whose activities have been extensively studied by Anning Jing.¹7 A gilt-bronze Buddha in the Palace Museum, Beijing, dated 1305, gives an example of the kind of object Anige had made in quantities to furnish these temples (see illus. 66). As maps reconstructing the plan of Dadu indicate, the royal palaces precinct was situated in the south of the palace city (or forbidden city), around the large artificial lakes today called Zhongnanhai (‘central and southern seas’; the leadership compound for the Chinese Communist Party) on the north edge of Tian’anmen Square. Originally, this area north of Yanjing had been the site of the Jin summer palace and some of its buildings were captured intact by the Mongols. If we want to have any idea of what the Dadu palace buildings looked like, we have to refer to the two remaining grand buildings from the Yuan period surviving in north China. It is likely that the construction of extensive temple complexes in Shanxi was carried out with imperial patronage. The Sanqingdian (‘hall of the three purities’) at the Yonglegong Temple, a Daoist complex which also houses important Yuan 

7 Carved masonry with phoenixes from Yuan Dadu. Excavated in 1966. Yuan dynasty, late 13th century.

8 Canopy with phoenixes and flowers, Yuan dynasty, complex silk gauze base with couching and embroidery.

9 ‘The east wall at the Observatory’; Beijing city walls close to the observatory. From the publication in 1924 of an early 20th-century photograph by Osvald Sirén (1879–1966). 10 White Pagoda, Miaoyingsi Temple, Beijing. Built by Anige (1245–1306). 11 Dening Hall (1270), Temple to the Northern Peak, Quyang, Hebei.

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murals, is one of these. The other, perhaps more comparable site, is the Dening Hall, the main building at the Daoist site, the temple to the northern sacred peak in Quyang, Hebei, which in its scale and structure is close to what the Mongol imperial palaces would have looked like (illus. 11).¹8 Among other features, the Dening Hall is notable for the large, raised platform, the Yuetai or Moon Terrace, used for rituals in front of the building. There are no actual paintings which record the cityscape of Dadu as such. A colourful handscroll, although of likely early to mid-Ming date, presents an extensive visual record of the cityscape of the former Southern Song capital at Hangzhou, the largest and most resplendent city of the densely populated south, with close to one million denizens; but nothing like this exists for Dadu.¹9 Renowned old master paintings, including the locus classicus of the ‘prosperous capital’ scroll, Qingming shanghe tu (Going upriver on the Qingming festival), were known in the Yuan but did not inspire exceptional copies or reprises.²0 As is the situation with buildings, we are left to trawl through extant Yuan paintings for glimpses of the city, although some paintings which we might expect to be useful in reconstructing it turn out to be not very helpful. The Mongols certainly built extensive palaces and pictures of such buildings were executed. Large buildings and complexes were a common feature of various types of Yuan painting, notably religious murals in Buddhist and Daoist temple halls, and also the Chinese scroll-painting genre for architecture, known as ‘boundary painting’ (jiehua), in which grand tiered buildings were rendered in apparently fine architectural detail.²¹ In these cases, however, the depiction of buildings is usually in a religious context or else tied to events: the aim is not accurate recording of the city or even of buildings. Some of these paintings are fanciful images of palaces in the mountains, while others are paintings of festivals, as in Dragon-boat Festival on Jinming Lake (illus. 12), one of numerous extant versions of the palace dragon-boat regattas attributed to the celebrated early Yuan court painter Wang Zhenpeng (c. 1280–1329). Perhaps as many as a dozen handscroll paintings of dragon-boat festivals on the lakes in the centre of the city carry attributions to Wang, the undisputed master of jiehua in the early Yuan. Although the genre of architectural painting assuredly peaked in the Yuan, from the evidence of extant works, painters did not accurately depict real buildings or even building techniques, although the basic look of buildings, with their multiple bays and hipped roofs, was in keeping. In fact, the detailed elements in these paintings were executed according to a shorthand or formula using ruled cross-hatching – especially for depicting the tiered bracketing system used to support roofs. Some principles of Chinese architecture are clear, at least, including the modularity (that is, the use of pillars and bays, and tiered roofs to increase the size of buildings) 

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13 Anon. (Yuan, 14th century), detail from Episodes from the Career of a Yuan Official (also known as Zhao Yu Pacifying the Barbarians South of Lu, 1150–1200), handscroll, ink and colours on silk.

12 Attributed to Wang Zhenpeng (c. 1280–1329), detail from Dragon-boat Festival on Jinming Lake, handscroll, ink on silk.

as well as some Mongol predilections, such as size and scale, intricacy and the material signs of superb craftsmanship. If we pause to look at possible sources further afield, we may be frustrated to draw further unexpected blanks. Dadu does not feature, for example, in such an important Persian illustrated book project as Rashid al-Din’s Jami’ al-Tawarikh (History of the world). There are no scenes of Mongols taking great Chinese cities like the one which shows the capture of Baghdad by Il-khan Hulagu (‘warrior’ khan) in an early fourteenth-century edition of the book now in Berlin, notwithstanding the fact that his army contained Chinese generals and engineers.²² In China, the whole weight of the pictorial tradition, at least in the form we have inherited, has tended to focus on the building of society. A particular if unusual case of a Chinese scroll painting that serves as a source for Yuan Dadu is Episodes from the Career of a Yuan Official (illus. 13). This narrative painting has recently been redated to the Yuan period, although the museum which owns it maintains it dates to 1150–1200.²³ A scene in the painting is set in front of an n-shaped inner palace gate, probably the Chongtianmen, seen looking north over the top of an outer palace gate, with further large palace buildings behind on the same north–south axis. ²4 The caption states that Zhao Yu, the protagonist of this scroll, has had an audience with the ruler and entered the ranks of officialdom. He is seen having donned Mongol official attire and pointing to a pile of his old clothing in front of the central (sovereign’s) gate of the palace. We will see later how early Ming connoisseurs wilfully distorted the subject of this painting, an example of the Ming bias toward nativist civic culture that has worked 

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to erase vestiges of militarism and foreignness from the choreographed archive that is China’s cultural heritage. Looking elsewhere on the plan of Dadu (see illus. 1) one wonders if historians of architecture are not missing a trick, as it were, in aspiring to reconstruct the building stock. The plan shows vast areas of open space in the imperial city, parks we know were used for encampments, festivals and the like in the Mongol manner. The cultural significance of these parks, in particular their role as displaced steppeland for residential tented encampments, is underscored by an extraordinary object that was displayed in the Yuan blue-and-white exhibition at the Shanghai Museum in December 2012. Anyone who studies mid-fourteenthcentury blue-and-white ceramics from Jingdezhen in Jiangxi, the first global brand of manufactured object, will know that all Yuan blue-and-white ceramics are functional things, including stands and vessels such as vases, dishes and bowls – as almost all the exhibits were. The exception was a blue-and-white model of a Mongol ger (bao in Chinese, yurt in Russian) from the Hermitage in St Petersburg (illus. 14). The existence and provenance of this unique object are continuing puzzles. So, what of these unbuttoned outdoor activities? Feasting and state banquets marking the performance of rituals, and to celebrate birthdays and festivals, confer honours and receive tribute were frequent events in the inner palace. Again, we do not have Yuan pictures of court gatherings like there are for the other khanates such as the enthronement scenes from the Il-khanate in Rashid al-Din’s Jami’ al-Tawarikh. The closest similar images might be the plans of seating layout by rank and function for court assemblies which were published in encyclopaedias like Shilin guangji. (Encyclopaedia of the forest of affairs, or Forest of affairs for short). Nonetheless, we can imagine the scale and cultural significance of shamanistic and other ritual ceremonies and feasts from objects like the famous jade bowl known as the Mount Du Great Jade Sea (Dushan da yu hai), now housed just north of the Forbidden City in Beijing (illus. 15). It is believed to have been commissioned by Khubilai in 1265, long before he was obese and hobbled by gout, installed by him on the Wansui (‘myriad years’) hill in the Guanghan Palace on an island in Beihai (‘north sea’) lake, and used perhaps as a container for alcoholic drink at feasts and state banquets.²5 The Mongols commissioned special robes to be worn for these very important occasions, made from both silk and gold (illus. 16). To return to pictorial records pertaining to Dadu, there were several areas of cultural interest where Chinese and Mongol interests richly intersected: architectural painting, religious painting, horses and flower-and-bird painting. These genres help us to understand how working areas, landscaped precincts and interiors functioned as parts of visual culture. 

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A measure of the openness of Yuan culture, beyond the core Chinese scholar genres of landscape and bamboo-and-rock painting, scholar-painters expanded their repertoire to include horses and flower-and-bird painting, all genres of which they were justifiably proud. Wider regional recognition of the sophistication of Chinese painting is evident from the ubiquity of motifs culled from Chinese painting in other Asian traditions. An admiration for China’s painting tradition in general and for the genres just mentioned in particular is evident in a number of contemporary Persian paintings, such as ‘Rustam Killing Isfandiyar’ from the ‘Demotte’ Shahnama at Harvard (illus. 17).²6 There the tree stump mentioned in the text is portrayed as two flowering plums (in the foreground), a popular theme of painting in Yuan China and one even seen on carpet designs of this period.²7 As in many comparable Persian paintings the horses are rendered in profile, a type easily replicated in the painting workshop and in a context where the narrative is the driver, in contrast with the variety of bespoke, foreshortened forms seen in China, in court and scholar painting but also in workshop painting. Horses are a common subject in Yuan painting, having been used both by artists working in official capacities and otherwise. Paintings by two southern Chinese scholar-officials, Zhao Mengfu and his contemporary Ren Renfa (1255– 1328), also an expert in watercourse management, stand out. Most of Ren Renfa’s horse paintings depict horses and grooms of the imperial stables being prepped for parade, a subject painted by the pioneering scholar-painter Li Gonglin (1049– 1106) in the late Northern Song period, but we may note how Ren Renfa’s paintings were usually done in traditional Chinese format of the long handscroll, a Tang revival, which incorporates narrative elements both in the sequence of the scenes and, for the viewer, in the handling process (illus. 19). His multivalent works embody marriages of aesthetic modes: the referencing of significant historical forms with a contemporary topicality and of contemporary and past modes of narrative realism. Like the Tang masterworks, Ren Renfa’s paintings typically have no setting but the value of his work may be seen to lie in the depiction of numerous horses in a commanding variety of postures, rendered in outlines of great delicacy and refinement, being watered and fed and brought out for inspection on parade. This genre also incorporates pictures of horses being specifically presented as tribute to the emperor of China or khan. One unusual surviving work, a Ming copy of an original by the late Yuan court painter Zhou Lang (active mid-fourteenth century) is the handscroll Presenting a Frankish Horse in the Palace Museum, Beijing (see illus. 122). It depicts the papal envoy John of Marignolli (Giovanni dei Marignolli, active 1338–53) presenting a horse in 1342 to Togön Temür khan (Shundi, r. 1333–70) in Dadu, an event recorded in the Yuan shi (Yuan history). 

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14 Blue-and-white porcelain model of a Mongol ger, Yuan dynasty, mid-14th century.

15 Massive jade wine bowl, known as the Mount Du Great Jade Sea, late 13th century (with later recarving).

16 Cloth of gold (nasij) with winged lions and griffins, Central Asia, c. 1240–60, silk and metallic thread lampas.

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Although the ‘Frankish horse’, a gift of Pope Benedict xii in Avignon (recipient of the Fonthill vase), is recorded as having been very large, it was likely acquired en route to Dadu, perhaps in Central Asia while Marignolli’s mission was hosted by the Chagatai khanate. The painting of the tribute-bearing envoy was a specifically Yuan conflation of ideas and practices.²8 Such images revived (if they did not perpetuate) iconographies from Tang China and ancient narratives about judgement and human talent, as well as foregrounding Mongol concerns for fine horseflesh. As the combination ink-outline technique and delicate colouring in the painting of Zhou Lang indicates, by mid-Yuan, the premier court and professional artists had also integrated techniques from Chinese scholar painting into their practice – a topic that is explored in the last two chapters.²9 The painting of the midYuan professional Wang Yuan (active in the first half of the fourteenth century) shows how the concerns of a pluralistic Yuan culture could be integrated through art. Some of his works are in colour, with strong decorative appeal; others are in monochrome, drawing on China’s scholar-painting tradition (see, for example, illus. 125 and 128–31). He not only moved seamlessly between these modes, his subjects also interweave Chinese and Mongol interests by combining ideas of hunting reserves and fine gardens, game birds as quarry and as beauties to behold (in addition to any connotations of official rank and status through the use of these fine birds as rank badges and markers of accomplishment).³0 The imperial palace could be regarded as a microcosm of the city and indeed of the country (further replicated in appanage palaces of Mongol princes across China). The areas within the imperial city on the Dadu map coloured green (see illus. 5) could function at once like Chinese palace and Mongol steppe. Similarly, land use immediately around the city wall was complicated, bringing nomad (pasturing) and sedentary (agrarian) lifestyles into conflict. Part of the planning of Dadu involved repair and recommissioning of the Grand Canal and its extension right into the city itself in the form of the Tonghui Canal. The canal was used both for travel in both directions and the shipping of rice, grain and tea to the north. The Mongols certainly encouraged agriculture and sericulture as attested by their patronage of pictures and books about tilling and weaving, by their water and calendar management and their encouragement of technological advances. Yet, as some extraordinarily fine examples of equestrian tack also attest, they loved and depended on their horses – for linked reasons of military superiority, communications, pastoralism and hunting. A lavishly gilded saddle from Mongolia (illus. 18), as well as being a trapping of rank and privilege, bears a cartouche above the pommel which contains a stag. Whatever else this gold saddle said about its owner, the thrill of the chase was prominently in mind. Deer and game birds are a common 

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motif in many media, including jade and textiles, where they appear in offset patterns woven in gold on Mongol attire. Hunting as a royal activity was actually intricately woven into the khan’s life and the ‘court circular’ in the capital or capitals, if we include Shangdu and Karakorum, as one would expect of nomads for whom it was part of the fabric of life, providing a focal point for rituals of coming of age and seasonal festivals.³¹ The famous painting in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, depicting Khubilai and his wife Chabi (1227–1281) out hunting, employs a standard iconographic setting of steppeland somewhere outside the metropolis and is not site specific, at least not to us today (see illus. 21). However, part of the original planning for the city of Dadu involved the division and zoning of land around the city, either for cultivation, for grazing or indeed as forestry or undeveloped terrain reserved for hunting, for specific groups or specific animals. The inevitable teething troubles and adjustments to the infrastructure and zoning provide insights into this topic. An equestrian accident in about 1290 recorded in Zhao Mengfu’s official biography in Yuan shi is a case in point, illustrating what provoked the khan’s sympathy and concern. When Khubilai heard from his Tibetan chief financier Sangha (d. 1291) that Zhao’s horse had slipped on a narrow path by the eastern wall of the imperial city and fallen into the moat, the khan ordered that the wall be moved two zhang to the west so the path could be widened. ³² Other anecdotes in the Yuan shi provide impressions of the city in relation to its surroundings. One appears in the empress Chabi’s ‘exemplary biography’, where it was presumably intended to demonstrate her subtle influence on affairs of state and her compassion towards the people, but also provides an insight on the early development of Dadu’s cityscape, that is, between the city’s foundation in 1272 and her death in 1281. In essence, Chabi curtailed an ad hoc official requisitioning of land. The number of cavalry and postal service horses stabled in and around the capital must have been staggering; finding adequate grasslands for grazing must have been a constant worry for the Horse Administration (Ma Zheng) officials responsible. So much so that one day after 1273 four keseg (military) officers successfully petitioned the throne to be allowed to graze horses in the suburbs. They presented a map, presumably detailing the areas they were to requisition, but Chabi stymied the proposal by arguing that the time to allocate grazing lands to the army and postal service was when the city of Dadu was being planned and built, and not now that the land in the suburbs was already assigned, some to local farmers, who would have comprised the local Chinese population and were already tending their crops. ‘Would it do to snatch it?’ she asked, effectively forcing Khubilai to shelve what would have been a blatant official land grab.³³ 

17 ‘Rustam Killing Isfandiyar’, scene from the ‘Demotte’ Shahnama of 1330–36. 18 Gold saddle plates, China, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368). opposite: 19 Ren Renfa 1255–1328), details from Nine Horses, dated 1324, handscroll, ink and colours on silk.

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Another angle is provided by Zhao Mengfu, the polymath and statesman we keep coming back to because of his prominence as a cultural leader. His recruitment by Khubilai to court service in 1285 was a cause célèbre in China because, as well as being one of south China’s pre-eminent talents, he was also a scion of the recently defeated Song royal house. His subsequent official status and career under five khans certainly did not hinder his acquiring an encyclopaedic knowledge of China’s visual art heritage but what is less recognized is how well placed he was to see the finest examples of painting from other traditions, for example Persian works coming out of cities like Tabriz in the Il-khanate. Although we have no textual evidence, he must have heard of Rashid al-Din and/or seen Persian illuminated manuscripts, although it is unlikely that he saw Jami’ al-Tawarikh, which was distributed to madrasas, not always illustrated, and only appeared in the 1310s. Elements of Zhao Mengfu’s painting do, not surprisingly, reference effects which enjoyed wide currency in the Mongol empire. The short horizontal format and proportion of some of Zhao’s handscroll paintings, as well as framing techniques within (such as the trees in Red-robed Western Monk in Liaoning Provincial Museum [illus. 91] and in the attributed monochrome work Old Trees, Horses Grazing, in Taipei) are examples. ³4 Interpreting this visual evidence is one of the major challenges facing the next generation of art historians. Remarkably, these royal suburban pastures in and around Dadu appear in at least two paintings by Zhao Mengfu. The first, Bathing Horses (illus. 20), is an early work probably done during his first sojourn at court between 1287 and 1295. In a close-up view, it depicts grooms of many regional ethnicities washing and brushing down some fine animals along a stream in a wooded valley. The horses are seen in all kinds of different poses on tree-lined banks and in the transparent waters: the idyllic simplicity of the scene belies the high standard of draftsmanship and brushwork here.³5 A later scene, entitled by Zhao Mengfu in an inscription as Watering Horses in an Autumn Suburb (see illus. 84), was painted in the eleventh month of 1312, an apologia to celebrate the recent ascent to the throne of the Chinese-educated Ayurbarwada (Renzong emperor) and Zhao’s own return to court following a decade of service in his native south. It too is set in one of these sparsely wooded suburban grasslands and points to its multiple uses for grazing and watering, for exercising and training, and for breeding and rearing. A red-coated groom leads a line of mature horses to a watering spot after exercise while foals play over open ground in the background. In Zhao Mengfu’s paintings, the nurture of these horses is a fairly straightforward metaphor for the meritocratic selection and nurture of human talent by the khan, with Zhao Mengfu’s advice. Indeed, in what Zhao Mengfu could claim as one of his greatest achievements at court, Ayurbarwada khan would, shortly 

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after Watering Horses in Autumn Suburbs, announce the restitution of the civil service examination system (in a two-stream Yuan form which favoured Mongols and Central Asians), to the general delight of China’s scholar class. Although this system recruited only a small number of individuals to the bureaucracy, its symbolic value was immense, as is seen in some carved stone bricks, dated 1334 (Shexian Museum, Anhui; see illus. 73), which appear to show traditional scenes of celebrations in the capital following the announcement of the examination results.³6 To Mongols, however, Watering Horses in Autumn Suburbs would have been equally significant as a celebration of equine culture. As noted, some suburbs were clearly reserved for the imperial stable and its stud for grazing and exercise, and others for official purposes. A vast pine forest, a place famous for unusual birds including chabi falcons, stood not ten li (3 miles) to the northeast of the summer capital in Kaipingfu (Shangdu). The empress Chabi seems to have been named after these rare birds, which were a subject in Yuan court painting (see illus. 119 for a late Yuan painting of an eagle). Such forests were presumably one of the hunting grounds handy to the capitals, where the Mongol royal family hunted using hawks and hounds as well as mounted archery. All these methods are represented in the hanging scroll attributed to Liu Guandao (active late thirteenth century) and titled Khubilai Khan Hunting, in Taipei (illus. 21).³7 Other paintings of Mongols and other nomads hunting typically situate these scenes using the iconography of the steppe, but Khubilai did also regularly hunt close to his great city at Dadu – for example, he was hunting close by when the first of the great Zhili earthquakes struck the capital region in 1291. Sources describe devastation to buildings and infrastructure and tsunami-like flooding as underground rivers spewed muddy water across the region. Deeply concerned at this omen, and wishing to know its cause, Khubilai immediately dispatched riders to the capital to convene the academies, as we shall see in the next chapter. Elsewhere I have argued that another early figure-in-landscape painting by Zhao Mengfu, Mind Landscape of Xie Youyu, was precipitated by that upset to the cosmic order (see illus. 65).³8 The Zhili earthquake resulted eventually in the downfall of the traditionally reviled Sangha. Zhao Mengfu was one of the men responsible for bringing him to justice. This painting, done in the early 1290s, presents a kind of historical masquerade which functions as a self-portrait. The Yuan scholar-painter borrowed a story from history in which a southern Chinese courtier, Xie Kun (style name: Youyu, 281–323), described himself as a ‘recluse at court’ (chao yin) – that is to say, someone who, although he lived in the urbane and sophisticated environment of the capital, was, at heart, really a straightforward country gentleman. In Zhao Mengfu’s painting, he pictures himself as this apparently contradictory person, the courtier-recluse. The image also works as 

20 Zhao Mengfu (1254–1322), details from Bathing Horses, handscroll, ink and colours on silk.

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an allegory, for he is seen in a self-consciously archaistic space-cell (like a cave or niche for a sculpture), sitting on an animal skin, as such reclusive figures are in ancient paintings. All along the edge of the water in front of him grow pairs of pine trees, which are symbolic of the civilized and lofty gentlemen at court. There is therefore a curious displacement at work here: what we see is the court, with its venerable assembly of statesmen, but this looks like a rustic idyll. There is another level of meaning as well: these pines are the so-called lianlimu (‘trees of combined cosmic pattern’), omens which in antiquity appeared only when the ruler’s virtue spreads throughout the land. By implication, the painting is completed allegory, in which Khubilai’s virtue has also spread throughout the land. Researchers, including this writer, have long emphasized the Chinese credentials of this painting, its reprisal of classical elements as part of a fugu or classical revival movement among the Chinese-educated Yuan scholar class. However, reading descriptions of the Yuan court and its palaces might prompt us to reconsider its rhetoric as solely classicist. For instance, according to written records, the interior of the Daming Palace, the main court building, one of the large buildings seen behind the Chongtianmen in Episodes from the Career of a Yuan Official (see illus. 13), was decorated to evoke steppe landscape. The floors were covered with leather painted green to resemble grass, while the walls were painted with landscapes highlighted in gold – most likely, that is, in the antique ‘green and gold’ or ‘blue and green’ mode.³9 In other words, Khubilai surrounded himself not just in his parks with their imported grass but also in his major court buildings with images of his steppe homeland – another effect of displacement. Zhao Mengfu’s Chinese classicism is a loyal, but distinctively Chinese echo of that. Zhao’s subtly wrought imagery, with its complex interweaving of the topical and the classical, stands out as one of the most compelling extant impressions of the political heart within Khubilai’s great city of Dadu.


21 Attributed to Liu Guandao, detail from Khubilai Khan Hunting, dated to the early spring of 1280, hanging scroll, ink and colours on silk.

tw o



22 Stone figure of Mahakala (God of War), 1322. Commissioned by a Uighur military officer named Bojianu. Baochengsi Temple, Wushan, Hangzhou. The inscription in Chinese on the right wall may once have been matched by another on the left wall in Uighur. The sculpture niche only survived the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) due to a grille being already in place at the time. The Tang stone Buddhas to the left of this niche were decapitated.

n the ‘Basic Annals’ of Khubilai’s reign in the Yuan shi, a bald statement notes the khan’s approval, in the ninth month of the twenty-first year of Zhiyuan (1284), that an Inner Asian monk named Yang Lianzhenjia (in Tibetan, Rinchenkyap) might use gold, silver and precious objects from a Song imperial tomb for the refurbishment of the Tianyisi monastery.¹ Part of the complex of Song imperial mausolea close to Kuaiji, near Shaoxing, south of Hangzhou, this tomb must have lain within the demesne or former outlying estate of the monastery. What had begun as a local dispute over timber and building materials between Luo Xian, the hard-bitten warden of the Song imperial tombs, and his Buddhist neighbours wanting to carry out rebuilding works, had escalated first to provincial and then national level. The monks had appealed to Yang Lianzhenjia, one of the most senior Buddhist clerics based in the former Southern Song capital Hangzhou. Known as Lin’an (‘overlooking peace’) until its capture by Yuan forces in 1276, this was Yuan China’s largest city, one marvelled at by Marco Polo who referred to it as Kinsai. Not surprisingly, Yang Lianzhenjia had interest at court, specifically with the Tibetan statesman Sangha, Khubilai’s chief financier and the most powerful Yuan minister in the later 1280s. The result was a notorious wave of religious violence meted out against the politically symbolic remains of the Song dynasty, in one of the most culturally sensitive places for southern Chinese gentry, which would have violent repercussions across the whole of south China. Such traumatic experiences would become a general leitmotif of later Chinese narratives of Yuan art. Here, though, they provide a specific context to be drawn out and in which to listen to nuanced southern voicings of dissent, lament for the Song and personal resistance to the newly founded Yuan. What modes, motifs, images and codes did these men turn to, how openly did they communicate them and what can we learn from all this about Yuan culture? Rinchenkyap, known to Chinese as Yang Lianzhenjia, was a Tangut married lay-monk with excellent political connections, being a protégé of the powerful 

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Uighurized Tibetan minister Sangha, a brilliant polyglot who served the Phagspa lama and later rose to prominence in the Department of Tibetan and Buddhist Affairs before ending up as Khubilai’s chief financier in the 1280s.² It seems likely that Yang was a member of the Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism – the Sakya lama (d. 1251) had been Phagspa’s teacher – to which his political patron, as well as Khubilai and his consort Chabi, also belonged. Probably in 1278, or at any rate shortly after the capture of Hangzhou in 1276, Yang was appointed to the Hangzhou Branch Bureau of Tibetan and Buddhist Affairs. Hangzhou was not only the largest city in Yuan China, it was also a major centre of Tibetan Buddhist activity following the invasion, in no small part due to Yang’s activities. Buddhist stone sculptures were commissioned all over the city in the Yuan though only some survive, a rare example being a tantric figure of Mahakala on Wushan in the centre of Hangzhou, dated 1322 (illus. 22). This mode is seen in relief sculpture in the better-preserved Guardian Kings in the arch at Cloud Terrace, Juyongguan, erected in 1342–5 (illus. 23). That Yang was nominally one of the two deputies to the commissioner does not appear to have put any brake on his ambition to celebrate the victory of the Yuan over the Song and not just in spiritual matters. According to the Chinese archivist Tao Zongyi (active 1360–68), Yang Lianzhenjia was ‘extraordinarily arrogant and exceedingly venal’; he and his supporters grossly

23 Relief sculpture of a Guardian King inside the arch of the Cloud Terrace, Juyongguan, Hebei province.


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exceeded their authority to maintain Buddhist temple precincts and buildings and repeatedly acted to humiliate the local population and triumphalize the Yuan conquest over the Song.³ This only ended when he was investigated and cashiered in the fifth month of 1291 following Sangha’s spectacular fall from grace in the capital, which led to his biography being listed in the official Yuan shi in the category of ‘venal ministers’.4 Whether Yang was really as depraved as the traditional Chinese sources portray him we may never know. Men like him and Sangha are treated in Chinese sources in a manner that is almost uniformly hostile, voiced in a wounded tone of moral indignation, and citing their behaviour as fundamentally alien to Chinese sensibilities. Although by his behaviour Yang Lianzhenjia outraged members of the former Song educated elite (not to mention later Chinese historians), he renovated and built dozens of Buddhist temples and buildings. In addition, Yang and his wife were major patrons of the Buddhist arts in the region. They sponsored the printing and distribution of sutras, and built temples, stupas and pagodas, infamously including one named the Pagoda which Guards the South (Nanzhenfutu) in the grounds of the former Song royal palace in Hangzhou. Yang enjoyed considerable support from members of the local Buddhist hierarchy. Yang’s chief lieutenant in the ransacking of the Song royal tombs, for instance, was a local monk called Zongchong from the Tainingsi temple at Kuaiji, Shaoxing. Kuaiji was not far south of Hangzhou, but, more significantly, was also close to the site of the Southern Song imperial tombs below Cuangong hill to the southeast of Shaoxing. (The site is today the ‘Six Song Tombs’ or Songliuling, a public park set within farmland; there is not much to be seen.) As we will see, Yang saw it as part of his remit to return formerly Buddhist buildings to their prior use and transfer the registration of lands and fields that had once belonged to Buddhist monasteries to his office. Yang and his wife set an example in commissioning some of the fine stone sculptures in Hangzhou, carved between 1282 and 1292 along the cliff-face at Feilaifeng opposite the famous Lingyinsi (Temple of the soul’s retreat) monastery, in the hills to the west of West Lake.5 Yang’s inscriptions there indicate that he was remarkably savvy in court politics, notably with regard to the succession late in Khubilai’s reign.6 It has long been assumed that the appearance of these esoteric Buddhist sculptures at Feilaifeng marked an aggressive intervention into what was a traditional Chinese Buddhist site. However, recent research has proposed that the sculptures Yang and his consort sponsored, which bear dedicatory inscriptions from 1289–92, were surprisingly non-partisan, encompassing both Tibetan Tantric and Chinese modes. The 1289 Buddha (illus. 24) represents a Chinese treatment of Indic style, and shares some of the characteristics of the Chinese-style figures such as a Buddha in niche number 45 (in Huang Yongquan’s numbering), which has a 

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24 Seated Buddha. Stone carving commissioned by Yang Lianzhenjia, with inscription below dated 1289. Yuan, late 13th century. Feilaifeng (niche no. 66; Huang Yongquan no. 57), west of Hangzhou. An example of Yuan composite culture, the dedicatory inscription on the cliff-face below the figure is in Chinese, while Tibetanized Sanskrit writing covers the wall in the niche behind it.

stiff, hieratic, frontal form: the monumental body is a powerful representation of an inner spirituality. Another of Yang’s commissions, dated 1292, is of a Tantric figure, a mounted Vaisravana (niche number 50; Huang Yongquan number 43), which therefore postdates his trial and exoneration by Khubilai, a time when he may have been seeking to make amends. The nearby figure of Rescuer Saint Tārā is rendered in a sensuous South Asian style (illus. 25). 

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25 Rescuer Saint Ta ¯ra ¯, Mother of Buddhas, in Indic style. Yuan, late 13th century. Stone carving at Feilaifeng (niche no. 51; Huang Yongquan no. 44), west of Hangzhou. The low-relief necklace highlights not just the undulating surface of the torso, as it clings to the shoulders, breasts and overhanging belly, but also the soft fleshy texture of the body, giving the figure an intensely sensuous appeal.

Yang Lianzhenjia’s despoliation of the Song royal tombs outside Hangzhou presents an opportunity to look more widely at related aspects of culture in the immediate aftermath of the incorporation of the south into the Yuan empire. What was the wider context of Yang Lianzhenjia’s activities in Hangzhou? What kind of support, tacit or otherwise, did he enjoy through his connections at court? How far did his activities parallel Mongol royal attitudes to the Song and its 

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artistic heritage? What were the consequences for those southerners who had loyalties to the fallen Song and to China’s cultural heritage?

The Mongols were and often still are portrayed as a violent and materialistic people, liking only things of intrinsic value such as gold and silk and valuing China principally for its potential to generate wealth and for the pleasures it could afford. If they themselves fostered a reputation for violence and terror as a tool of empire building, as seen in Rashid al-Din’s commemoration of Chingghis Khan’s wartime terror tactics – such as boiling captives alive – perhaps the price was a reputation as philistines with little or no aesthetic sensibility.7 Khubilai, for his part, after failing for several years to persuade the Song loyalist General Wen Tianxiang (1236– 1283) to switch allegiance, even under torture, lost patience and had him executed. Yet, as we have seen, Khubilai had previously founded both a great city to be his capital and adopted a Chinese dynastic name in 1271. The change of the empire’s name to Yuan was meant to signal an end to the warlike, expansionist model established in the Chinggis era and a new cultural beginning, as well as signalling his status as the khaghan, or khan of the four Chinggisid khans. In the latter part of his reign, he and Chabi were major patrons of Buddhism, notably Tibetan Buddhism whose esoteric beliefs and practices shared characteristics with Mongol shamanism, but of other religions too.8 As the case of the southern port of Quanzhou (the Zayton or Zaytoon of western travellers) shows, links between art and many faiths were omnipresent in Yuan China, including Buddhism of various sects, Islam, Hinduism, Manichaeism, Christianity (Nestorian and Roman Catholic) and local cults, most of which also enjoyed some kind of ties with the court. Inscriptions in Tamil dated to 1281 celebrate Khubilai’s kingship and his openness to foreigners and trade.9 Nestorian Christianity, for example, was not uncommon among some Mongol tribes, including those of women married into the Chinggisid line, like Khubilai’s mother. In other words, it is not as if the Mongols were aspiring to be ecumenical or tolerant when co-existence of many faiths and open-handed patronage of them were normally inherent in Mongol society. Chinese officials were the ones who protested to the throne about the sums lavished by imperial patrons on the Buddhist establishment, in which the Sakya sect to which Khubilai belonged was no doubt the largest beneficiary.¹0 The amounts lavished on such a range of arts gives the impression of unregulated cultural industries and an ungoverned mixing of tastes and styles. Some of the individual objects unearthed in north China and Mongolia raise questions about taste from a modern perspective, such as some of the heavily potted Jun pieces, which were thickly plastered with glaze and fired until the colours ran, or 

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26 Polychrome-glazed (sancai), pierced incense burner; Yuan dynasty, 1271–1368. Excavated in the 1970s at the Dongshengzhou City site in Tuoketuo county, Hohhot City.

the large colourful censers such as ones unearthed in Dadu as well as Inner Mongolia (illus. 26).¹¹ But who is to say that this is specifically Mongol taste? Polychrome was commonplace and heavy potting quite in vogue; this might equally well be north China taste. Some elegant monochrome Tibetan artworks such as ewers have been excavated from Dadu, and a fine small Yuan Tibetan painting survives in the Cleveland Museum of Art (see illus. 92). Indeed, patterns in decoration and aesthetic approach seen on luxury objects from the Jin to the early Mongol and Yuan periods speak to regional confidence and continuity. The use of such rich, bright colours and the bold textural quality to the surface and potting tallies with other visual media such as traditions of mural painting in the north China region 

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27 ‘Wenshu, Bodhisattva of Wisdom, at a Writing Table’, mural dated 1354; glue tempera on mud and straw wall. This somewhat androgynous figure of Wenshu (Manjushri), which bears some characteristics of Guanyin (Avalokiteshvara), is here composing the Prajnaparamita or Heart sutra. The table, depicted using a perspective in which ‘parallel’ lines converge toward the observer, is laid out with standard writing accoutrements. The servant to the left is African.

during this period. Polychrome paints and textural visual effects were widely employed in the decoration of religious art objects and in the appointment of domestic and official buildings, as temple murals from the Shanxi region attest. A polychrome mural of the Paradise of Bhais․ajyaguru removed in the early twentieth century from the Guangsheng Lower Monastery in Shanxi Province and dated to about 1319, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, features a similar censer as well as other typical luxury objects, such as a large red lacquer bowl (compare illus. 72).¹² A fine scene of 1354 from the same monastery shows the Bodhisattva Wenshu (Manjushri) composing the Prajnaparamita sutra in an equally lavish setting (illus. 27). The cross-referencing of objects and styles bespeaks an art economy catering to this clientele comprised of standardized workshops, although only the mural painting ones were necessarily mobile. Evidence of carefully planned and coordinated artistic production aimed at creating visual coherence was presented for Dadu’s palaces in chapter One. The canopy with phoenixes and flowers, which is a similar size and design to one of the relief stone carvings from Yuan Dadu, is an example (see illus. 28). Closer examination of some of these textiles made under presumed Mongol patronage points to unexpected levels of aesthetic and technical appreciation.¹³ Here, on a complex (that is, alternating double and single warp threads) silk gauze base, is an image – also seen on the stone – of a double phoenix roundel in couched metal thread. Couching is a technique of using narrow tubes of gilded paper, which can be laid flat in lines or turned by folding over to create designs that are then bordered and sewn down onto the gauze base, creating a beading effect. The roundel is surrounded by embroidered scrolling floral motifs, which is notable not just for the naturalistic palette of threads, which show variously young and ageing petals and leaves; these are naturalistically angled and foreshortened to present different views and curling effects, while the meticulous alignment and interweaving of different coloured embroidered threads naturalistically suggest surface textures and movement, from petal or leaf base to tip, enhancing the elegance of these forms. We imagine that patrons who demand such things must appreciate them. It is hard to imagine that Khubilai and Chabi’s royal patronage of arts and religion was carried out knowingly using expropriated Song royal wealth. Various anecdotes bear out their more complex relationship with the defeated dynasty at this point in Khubilai’s reign. I should emphasize that these details are culled from the official Chinese source, the Yuan shi. Sources for Chabi do exist in various other languages, including Jami’ al-Tawarikh by Rashid al-Din; the Erdeni-yin tobchi (Precious button or Historical resumé) of the Mongolian historian Sagang Sechen; and (although historically unreliable) the Hu-lan deb-ther (Red register; 1346) 

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compiled by the Tibetan historian Kun-dga'-rdo-rje, but these are yet to be fully tapped. The official Chinese source portrays Chabi (illus. 28) as fully deserving of her honorary title, granted in 1273, as Chaste and Good, Bright and Sagacious, Compliant to Heaven, Wise in Culture, Brilliant in Responsiveness Empress.¹4 Khubilai greatly missed the presence of Chabi after her death in 1281, a loss exacerbated by the death at 43 of their son Zhenjin (1243–1286), the crown prince since 1273 and a pro-Chinese figure in politics, a few years later. According to Chabi’s official Chinese biography in the Yuan shi, then, in 1276 after the defeat of the Southern Song, Khubilai had the former boy emperor, Gongdi (r. 1274–6), and remnants of the Song royal family brought to court in Shangdu where he held a great feast to celebrate the victory. Everyone was enjoying the occasion to the full. Only the empress Chabi was unhappy – worried by the demise of the Song and about the future of her own descendants, the future rulers of the Yuan dynasty. She was certainly deeply concerned for the welfare of the Song empress dowager who was unhappily forced to reside in the capital, for her own safety, by Khubilai. To lift his wife’s spirits, Khubilai ordered the antiquities (guwu, ancient things) of the Song palace treasury to be brought to Dadu and he had a huge display of them laid out in the palace for Chabi to look at. She came, examined them and departed. Seeing the wealth of treasures that would never be handed down the Song royal line, and thinking of her own progeny, she said she was so moved by the Song’s defeat that she was unable to pick out anything for herself. Her attitude is all the more remarkable in light of another anecdote in which Khubilai once reproved her for requisitioning some silk ‘inners and outers’ from the Taifujian, stating that these were for military and official use, and not for the royal family to take upon liking. Thereafter, the biography states, Chabi set the standard for diligence and frugality in her leadership of the women of the palace. Her resourcefulness is also praised by noting that after Khubilai was once blinded by the sun while out shooting, she invented a hat with a brim to shade the eyes, a design that was thereafter adopted widely. Further indications of the Mongol court’s response to the fall of Hangzhou in the spring of 1276 may be gleaned from details about the fate of the finest art treasures in other sources. The scholar-official Wang Yun (1227–1304) describes how, by the winter of 1276, the pick of the former Song royal collection, including books, scrolls and ritual vessels, had all arrived in the Yuan capital from Hangzhou. In company with a number of others and in the course of his viewing(s), Wang Yun describes in his preface how he made a selection of over 200 of the finest works of calligraphy and painting, which he recorded in a Shuhua mulu (Calligraphy and painting inventory).¹5 As works by many of China’s old masters thus immediately entered Yuan official and royal collections in the capital, the dynasty came into 

28 Anon. (Yuan, late 13th century), Empress Chabi, Consort of Khubilai Khan, album leaf, ink and colours on silk.

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29 Attributed to Yan Liben (c. 600–673), detail from The Thirteen Emperors, handscroll, ink and colours on silk. This detail from a rare early Tang (later 7th century) handscroll painting depicts Emperors Wendi (r. 559–66) and Feidi (r. 566–8) of the Southern Chen dynasty (557–89).

politically symbolic possession of the Chinese past. But, again, the significance is in the detail. In all, Wang Yun lists 147 works of calligraphy and 81 paintings (228 works in total), including, first, works of calligraphy by people such as Wang Xizhi (303–365), Sun Guoting (646–691), Huaisu (737–799), Huang Tingjian (1045– 1105) and others; and second, paintings by the likes of Gu Kaizhi (c. 344– c. 406), Yan Liben (c. 600–673), Wu Daozi (680–740?), Wang Wei (699–759), Li Sixun (651–716), Huang Quan (active mid-tenth century) and Li Gonglin (1049–1106). There must have been quantities of other treasures that were never inventoried. The list indicates that Mongol khans had at their disposal a fully representative range of China’s old masters and of painting subjects. At one end of the spectrum were highlights of flighty romance such as the Goddess of the Luo River composition traditionally ascribed to Gu Kaizhi, which at that date existed in various versions.¹6 Today the painting most closely associated with Gu Kaizhi is the Admonitions of the Court Instructress in the British Museum, but it seems that particular painting remained in private hands during the Yuan, as will be discussed later in chapter Five.¹7 At the other end of the spectrum were works recording exemplary kingship from China’s old master tradition. The presence on Wang Yun’s list of Yan Liben’s Thirteen Emperors – a scroll of portraits of Han (206 bce–220 ce) and Six Dynasties (220–589) rulers now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (illus. 29) – and of the portraits of all the Song emperors tallies with Khubilai’s interest in the exemplary conduct of China’s past rulers, including those of the Song dynasty he had just vanquished. It is notable that these portraits of China’s past rulers were not just of interest to Khubilai but also across the Mongol empire, for instance among the Il-khans in Persia, as evinced 

30 ‘Nine Emperors of the Tang Dynasty’, from Rashid al-Din, Jami’ al-Tawarikh. Tabriz, Iran; dated 714 ah/1314–15 ce.

Imperial Patronage of the Arts: Anige The Nepalese master Anige (1245–1306), a self-declared maker of ‘painted sculptures and cast gilt-bronze figures’, is an example of how the system of imperial patronage of the religious arts worked. The year he ascended the throne, 1260, Khubilai commanded his imperial preceptor, the Phagspa lama, to build a Golden Pagoda in the far west, in Turfan, for which task just 80 of the assigned 100 Nepalese craftsmen arrived. Aged just seventeen, Anige managed to have himself sent and put in charge of these skilled workers, and he had the building completed the following year. Recommended by Phagspa to court, Anige was granted an audience with Khubilai, who peppered him with questions. Was he, a young provincial, not out of his depth in this great city? Why had he come? And what was he capable of? Anige stated his skills, with the preface, ‘I take my mind-heart as my teacher.’ Khubilai duly tested his skill and ingenuity by producing a much broken Song-dynasty bronze figure used in acupuncture and moxibustion and asking if Anige could make it anew. Although he had never done anything of the kind, Anige agreed to the challenge and, in 1265, presented the renovated figure to wide acclaim. He was later put in charge of the government department for the regulation of artisans, and received posts and awards. Anige was responsible for the construction of many temples in the capitals, although only the White Pagoda in Beijing still stands (see illus. 10). It was said that most of the figures in Buddhist and Daoist temples in the two capitals came from his workshops – bronze and dry lacquer Buddha figures are ascribed to him (see illus. 66 and 31) and he turned his hand to other crafts as well, including portraits done in silk tapestry (see illus. 28). Two of his six sons were prominent in the same field, and his protégé Liu Yuan (1240–1324) was also acclaimed. Working under Ayurbarwada, Liu Yuan was required to make figures of emperors and their wise ministers for the Eastern Marchmount Temple (Dongyuemiao) in the capital. The august imperial figures presented no problem, but Liu Yuan was at a loss as to how to portray the statesmen until his eyes were opened by a portrait of Tang Taizong’s (r. 626–49) eminent advisor Wei Zheng (580–643) in the imperial calligraphy and painting collection. The figures produced with this as the model caused the great ministers of the day to gasp in surprise.¹8

31 Nepalese–Chinese-style bodhisattva, Yuan dynasty, late 13th century, lacquer and cloth, traces of blue, gold, and green paint and gold leaf. This dry-lacquer figure of a bodhisattva, once brightly painted with gilding and colours, is in Nepalese style, and may have been made by the Nepalese art impresario Anige.

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by the portraits of Tang emperors in a 1314 Tabriz edition of Rashid al-Din’s Jami’ al-Tawarikh (illus. 30). In addition, there are on Wang Yun’s list plenty of paintings of horses, of fancy birds and animals, of landscapes and of palaces in the architectural painting mode. These works of calligraphy and paintings, combined with the remnants of Jin collections, existed as a resource for study by connoisseurs and scholars with the appropriate credentials as well as for calligraphers and also painters active at court. Among the latter category in the early to mid-Yuan were men like Liu Guandao, He Cheng (1223–c. 1309), Wang Zhenpeng and the northerner landscapist Shang Qi (d. 1324) (illus. 32). Shang Qi was a master in his own right but likely had learned from the influx of blue-and-green or green-and-gold landscapes by old masters like Li Sixun. The highly skilled outline-painter Wang Zhenpeng enjoyed a very close relationship with the siblings Ayurbarwada, later emperor Renzong, and his sister Sengge Ragi. The princess also drew a pair of southern scholars into her service, the calligrapher Feng Zizhen (1257–1337) and the poet Zhao Yan (active late thirteenth–early fourteenth century), as will be discussed further in chapter Four.¹9 Wang Zhenpeng came to the attention of Ayurbarwada with a ‘ruled-line’ or architectural painting (jiehua) of a royal palace and later painted at least one painting of the dragon-boat regatta in a similar mode at the command of the princess (see illus. 12). Wang’s superlative ink-outline painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vimalakirti and the Doctrine of Non-duality, is an excellent example of how the royal collections could be employed, for in Wang’s inscription he states that his painting was a copy of a Jin-dynasty painting. By fortune and despite the attrition of the historical process, the painting copied by Wang survives in the Palace Museum, Beijing, ascribed to the Jin artist Ma Yunqing (illus. 33). Although the Mongol royals worked closely with their clerics and skilled artists and craftsmen in a system of religious patronage, civil officials and educated men 

32 Shang Qi (d. 1324), detail from Spring Mountains, handscroll, ink and colours on silk.

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33 Attributed to Ma Yunqing (active c. 1230), detail from Vimalakirti and the Doctrine of Non-duality, handscroll, ink on paper.

from across East Asia were on occasion also drawn in. At various times in the Yuan, scholar-official calligraphers were summoned to court to participate in transcribing canonical texts such as the Buddhist tripitaka in gold ink, as in 1298 for Khubilai by his successor. Among the calligraphers summoned from around China on that occasion was Zhao Mengfu, the outstanding master of this art.²0 An extant calligraphic transcription of a Daoist scripture for a Mongol prince by Zhao Mengfu (Freer Gallery, Washington, dc), with a colophon by the mid-Yuan calligrapher Kangli Naonao (Central Asian [Kangli], 1295–1345), indicates that these religious art connections extended through the Mongol royal family and officialdom.²¹ A marvellous 1291 handscroll painting of fish, a Daoist theme, also passed through the hands of a Mongol, if not certainly a Mongol royal.²² The subject of fish was painted by Buddhist monks, as in the case of an exquisitely framed, individual portrayal of a fish amid water plants ascribed to the priest Laian (active Yuan, 1271–1368), which is more in keeping with the mid-Yuan scholar-cum-professional practice of monochrome depiction of flora and fauna (illus. 34). It is also evident that calligraphers were demanded of and provided by the Korean court for these projects in the same way that well-raised girls were also sent to the khans in Dadu. Buddhist and Daoist paintings and perhaps court painters were too (see illus. 35 and 53). At least, some Buddhist paintings made by Korean court painters bore Yuan rather than Kory˘o reign dates (illus. 35). While Yuan sutras with picture frontispieces in gold on blue paper are not uncommon, only a small number of the exquisitely gilt-decorated Korean sutra boxes of this date survive,


34 Attributed to Laian (14th century), Fish Among Water Plants, hanging scroll, ink on silk.

opposite: 35 So ˘ Ku-bang (Korean, active early 14th century; in Chinese, Xu Jiufang), Guanyin with Willow Branch, Koryo ˘ period; with a Yuan date, Zhizhi 3rd year (1323; 8th year of the reign of Koryo ˘ king Ch’ungsuk).

36 Box for storing Buddhist sutras, Korea, Koryo ˘ dynasty, latter half of the 13th century, wood, lacquer, mother-of-pearl, tortoiseshell, silver wire. The decoration in mother-of-pearl, tortoiseshell and silver wire of peony scrolls and stylized chrysanthemum is paralleled by that inlaid on celadons of the same period.

37 Celadon jar with inlaid and gilded decoration of arabesques, with a picture panel showing a hare by a pitted rock, Korea, Koryo ˘ dynasty, late 13th century.

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but it is not clear if these were a standard form of tribute brought to the Yuan court, or were bespoke for special occasions (illus. 36).²³ Another fine Korean product is a jar with picture panels on each side in the National Museum, Seoul, one of a small number of very fine inlaid and gilt-decorated Korean ceramics from the late thirteenth century. On one side is a scene featuring a monkey; on the other (illus. 37) is a hare by a pitted rock below a (banana?) tree. Given the care and attention that Khubilai and Chabi devoted to the Song in its immediate aftermath, it is not a surprise to read that sometime between 1278 and 1284, the khan found the time to reprimand the Koreans for what he saw as the excessive use of gold in the decoration of their tribute wares.²4 These Song and Jin treasures were not just booty: the Mongol imperia of the Yuan dynasty were fully aware of their intrinsic value, their political significance as royal possessions, spiritual value as tools of salvation and indeed of kingship displayed by enforcing sumptuary and tributary regulations – and not least by condescending to grant access to the qualified individuals who would create culture as the face of the Yuan.

As the Yuan shi records, Yang Lianzhenjia obtained for his supporters permission to use treasures from a Song royal tomb in order to renovate a temple. Yang must have had the support of his patron, Sangha, but whether Khubilai himself approved this action is unclear.²5 It is unlikely given that such activity contravened earlier edicts and protection orders, including one issued shortly after the fall of Hangzhou in 1276 presumably to prevent looting and wanton destruction by Mongol troops, that had expressly forbidden the destruction of all manner of religious, historical and official buildings and sites, a measure to appease vanquished southerners.²6 The chronology of events during Yang’s period of office is not entirely clear from the primary sources, but it seems that with this form of authority from the court, beginning in 1285, his followers entered the Song tomb complex to remove timber and treasures. It seems likely that their activities were by then at least partly sanctioned, but that they exceeded their authority by returning more than once, using violence against those charged with protecting the site and treating the human remains in ways that were intended to be deeply offensive to, and were indeed deeply resented by, remnant loyalists of the defeated Song. One contemporary account was recorded by the scholar and doyen of the southern art world, Zhou Mi (1232–1308). Originally from Huzhou, the same town in northern Zhejiang as Zhao Mengfu, Zhou Mi’s fabled library had been burned in the Yuan invasion in 1276 and he moved to live in Hangzhou after 

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that. In his book Guixin zazhi (Records compiled at my house on Guixin Street), we read: In the eighth month of 1285, the monks Zongchong and Zongkai from the Tainingsi temple in Kuaiji County planned to fell and carry off the trees in the tombs precinct but got into a dispute with those charged with the protection of the site. Their demands escalated to include the ‘gold, jade and various treasures’ from the tombs, and they falsely cited authority from President Yang and Minister Yang and produced false documents. Then, bringing along some Central Asian monks they ransacked the tombs of Ningzong, Empress Yang, Lizong and Duzong, smashing and emptying the coffins of countless treasures. They also severed Lizong’s head to let the mercury run out and to obtain the pearls from inside his mouth, and then shipped everything away. Later, with the approval of Yang Lianzhenjia and other senior clerics, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month they returned to ransack and empty the tombs of Empress Meng, Huizong, Empress Zheng, Gaozong, Empress Wu, Xiaozong, Empress Xie, Guangzong and others, carrying off the treasures and scattering the corpses and bones.²7 Zhou Mi ends by declaring that these clerics had jurisdiction over temple but not tomb precincts, and certainly no authority to open tombs, but their activities sparked off a spate of tomb robbing in Jiangnan which left no tomb unopened. Tomb robbers were already very active in the south during this period, so this may not have been the exaggeration it sounds.²8 Curiously, Zhou Mi records that some of the tombs were empty. The tombs of the Song emperors Qinzong (1100–1161; r. 1126–7) and Huizong (1082–1135; r. 1100–25) contained ‘not a single thing’. These were the two last Northern Song emperors who had been captured by the Jurchen Jin and died in the north, unransomed by their successors on the Southern Song throne. Zhou Mi wonders whether the repatriation of their remains, their funerals and interments were not in fact an elaborate hoax. The Jin imperium may have returned false remains and the Song imperium, whether knowingly or not, buried them to console the 

38 Attributed to Zheng Sixiao, Duan River chaoshou-shaped stone for grinding ink, China, 13th–14th century.

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39 Silver-gilt hairpins excavated from the Gu county cache, Southern Song dynasty, 1127–1279.

people. Other tombs contained rare treasures. Gaozong’s tomb (1107–1187; r. 1127–62) contained a Duan inkstone which was purloined by one of the leading henchmen, a monk from the Yanfusi monastery called Yunmeng Yunze (1231– 1298). (See a Duan inkstone attributed to the Song loyalist Zheng Sixiao [illus. 38].) Some of these treasures remained attached to the mutilated and scattered corpses. An old villager, for example, discovered a six-foot-long lock of hair from Empress Meng’s (1073–1131) tomb; it had a short, golden hairpin still attached to it. None of these objects are known today but similar extant objects and accessories enable us to imagine them (illus. 39). As Zhou Mi notes, Yang Lianzhenjia’s followers were not satisfied with merely plundering the tombs of emperors and empresses; they also brought out the corpses which they deliberately mutilated and scattered. At first, no one dared to intervene but later some brave souls came to gather the remains and dispose of them appropriately. At the same time, stories began to circulate about the extraordinary happenings. The late Yuan scholar Tao Zongyi, writing in the 1360s, quoted and elaborated upon Zhou Mi’s account. According to Tao, Emperor Lizong’s (r. 1224–64) tomb yielded the most treasures. When they first opened his coffin it was said that a white vapour rose up and that Lizong’s corpse looked as if it were still alive. They brought it out and hung it from a tree to let the mercury flow out, as Zhou Mi had noted, leaving it there for three days until the head fell off. It was believed that the Central Asian and Tibetan monks had a custom of obtaining the skull of an emperor or king as the spoils of victory which could bring great fortune, and so 

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they stole off with it and presented it to Yang. The warden of the Song tombs, Luo Xian, later tried to do what he could to set the place to rights. As news spread into the surrounding areas and people came to see for themselves, there was much wailing and lamenting. All manner of strange things happened to people who came into contact with the tomb contents. Families which held onto these gold items experienced illnesses or deaths, so the old man who had found the lock of hair, growing fearful, gave the golden hairpin to a Buddhist hall and ‘now his family is most fortunate’. At the time when Lizong’s corpse was brought out, Yunmeng Yunze was there. He kicked the head around with his feet to show that he was not scared but immediately started to feel a strange pain in his foot and because of this intense pain he fell ill for several years. His legs became inflamed and eventually he lost all his toes and died as a result. By curious coincidence, one of the illustrations in the woodblock-printed encyclopaedia Shilin guangji (Forest of affairs) features a group of men in official Mongol attire standing around playing football – only with what looks to be a leather stitched ball rather than a skull (illus. 40). Finally, these sources speculate that a man known as Righteous Scholar Tang (Tang Jue), leader of the Six Courageous Men who found ways to collect bones, could have had a hand in some of the other strange phenomena.²9 When Yang’s monk followers returned in the eleventh month they opened the tombs of five emperors – Huizong, Qinzong, Gaozong, Xiaozong and Guangzong – and four empresses: Meng, Wei, Wu and Xie. The hair of Gaozong’s corpse was said to have ‘been transformed’ (that is, disappeared) while Xiaozong’s bones were ‘small pieces’ – possibly as the result of a switch by the loyal Tang, who had anticipated this and removed the remains for safe keeping. According to the Ming shi (Ming history), Yang Liangzhenjia not only oversaw the looting of the tombs of Huizong and his successors in the Southern Song royal family, he had the remains of the emperors and empresses brought out and ignominiously buried in the former Song palace in Hangzhou along with a pile of slaughtered animals (horses and cattle) ‘and named this the Protecting the South Pagoda (Zhennanta) to serve as a symbol of the nightmare of victory; he also had Lizong’s skull made into a winecup’. We know that he had another five pagodas constructed in the former Song palace grounds, each bearing triumphalist names including the Protecting the Nation Pagoda (Baoguota), Flourishing Yuan Pagoda (Shengyuanta) and Revering Victory Pagoda (Zunshengta).³0 Yang’s understanding of his role as a commissioner of Buddhist affairs based in Hangzhou would seem at odds with his remit of protecting and renovating Buddhist real estate, and could even be seen as evidence of his chauvinism towards the Yuan’s newest subjects in the south. Such arrogation of power speaks to a brutal reality of 

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40 ‘Playing football’, a scene from Shilin guangji (1328–32).

the post-conquest government in the south, but it was Yang’s venality and personal greed that were chronicled in most detail after his fall, which necessarily occurred when the members of Sangha’s clique were rounded up and charged following their patron’s indictment and execution in 1291. Yang’s crimes are spelled out in the Yuan shi as follows: [In 1285] he emptied more than a hundred Song royal tombs and those of chief ministers in Qiantang and Shaoxing; [his men] butchered four people [who were trying to protect a site]; and was the recipient of people’s gifts, pretty girls and treasures without number. The treasures he looted amounted to: 1,700 liang [ounces] of gold; 6,800 liang of silver; nine jade belts; 111 large and small jade objects; 152 treasures of various kinds; 50 liang of large pearls; 116,200 xuan of paper currency; 23,000 mou of farmland; and he evaded tax on 23,000 households 

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which were omitted from the public accounts. This is not to mention his undiscovered hoardings.³¹ The description of Yang’s accumulated wealth reads like a list of a criminal mastermind’s ill-gotten gains. As the list suggests, on Yang Lianzhenjia’s watch it was not just the tombs of the Song royal family and officials that were emptied, the treasures from numerous other Song properties accrued to him as well. Indeed, in a study on luxury textiles of this period, it has been suggested that ‘the total absence of needleloop embroidery in Chinese collections or archaeological finds can be at least partially explained by the plundering and destruction’ of temples in the Hangzhou area under Yang Lianzhenjia.³²

Modes of Loyalist Dissent In the aftermath of the tomb raiding, outraged southern Chinese gentry rallied around this cause in defence of decency and respect for the defeated dynasty. It was likely Sangha who in 1286 initiated the command to Yang to send some members of the Song imperial clan to the capital as hostages, effectively stymieing any attempt at active resistance on the part of Song loyalists by removing potential figureheads.³³ Tao Zongyi singles out a poor, young man called Tang – Zhou Mi’s Righteous Scholar Tang – as one of the heroes of the moment: he sold his possessions to enable him to perform rituals of reburial. Variously, he and other outraged men had found ways to collect some of the bones, either by purchase or by disguising themselves as herb-gatherers, and had the correct Buddhist rituals performed where the remains were then reburied on a hill near the site of Wang Xizhi’s Orchid Pavilion not far away. Another brave and loyal individual was the poet Lin Jingxi (1242–1310). Lin was said to have had an evergreen from the imperial ancestral temple site replanted to mark the spot and he composed various commemorative poems, including ‘Evergreen Flowers’. In verse three from ‘Composed in a Dream, Four Verses’, he wrote: From the Zhaoling the jade container has gone to the end of the earth, Before the Golden Grain mound, a few screeching crows. Water flows by the Orchid Pavilion with a gurgling sound; Who knows who now owns the original Orchid Pavilion manuscript?³4 The quatrain contains some standard but revealing images of loss and hurt, and some fascinating conflations and displacements, clues also to the ways such events 

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41 Luo Zhichuan (c. 1265–c. 1330s), Snowy River, hanging scroll, ink and colours on silk.

might be communicated in pictures. The Zhaoling was the tomb of Tang emperor Taizong (r. 629–49) who had taken the original Orchid Pavilion Preface to his grave in a jade box. The Golden Grain mound was the tomb of Tang Xuanzong (r. 712–56), an image of other Song tombs ransacked – by men likened to crows. The crow was a common enough metaphor in Yuan art, designating just this kind of person. Circling crows fill the sky with their malevolent presence and usurp the upper branches of trees in paintings by the Jiangxi master Luo Zhichuan (c. 1265–c. 1330s) among others (illus. 41). Another black bird, the mynah, appears in a little-studied painting, Mynah on a Stalk of Bamboo (illus. 42), ascribed to Zeng Rui (active c. 1300), one of the men who contributed funds to buy back the Song royal bones for reburial after the 1285 ransacking.³5 The second couplet brings in a new theme: the Orchid Pavilion. It happened that the Song royal tomb complex lay not far to the southeast of the town of Shaoxing, on the southern bank of the Qiantang River opposite Hangzhou. An equal distance from Shaoxing but to the southwest was the site of the Orchid Pavilion, the historically fabled location of Wang Xizhi’s seminal ‘elegant


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42 Attributed to Zeng Rui (active c. 1300), Mynah Bird on a Stalk of Bamboo, hanging scroll, ink on silk.

gathering’ held on the occasion of the spring purification festival in 353. Seated along the stream, whenever floating wine cups had come to a stop beside them, Wang’s guests had composed poems, or drunk wine as a forfeit. Wang composed a text to cap these three dozen successful poems, known as the Preface to the Orchid Pavilion Collection (Lanting ji xu), which he then transcribed in his cursive hand. He was never again able to match it for quality, making it the finest piece ever written by the man who would be known as the sage of calligraphy. The Preface soon became legendary. The early Tang emperor Taizong, an ardent collector of Wang’s calligraphy, sent an advisor to trick the monk who owned it into revealing its whereabouts, a popular tale recounted in paintings under the title Xiao Yi Steals the Orchid Pavilion Preface.³6 Taizong thus acquired it and later took it with him to the grave. When we know that Taizong’s tomb was called Zhaoling, we are thus able to complete the image. The Song tombs are conflated with Taizong’s Zhaoling (in the hills outside Xi’an) and the human remains of the Song emperors with the original manuscript of the Preface. For the poet, the Song royal bones were endowed with as much cultural power as the original version of the greatest ancient masterpiece of Chinese calligraphy; their dispersal as devastating as the loss of the manuscript. Since the Tang dynasty, copies of the Orchid Pavilion Preface had circulated in manuscript copies as well as in the form of ink rubbings from stone engravings. Ink rubbings made from the most revered family of engravings, the Dingwu, elicited lengthy commentaries by early Yuan connoisseurs – but it should not be a surprise that, even among men who could be suspected of having loyalist tendencies, they do not draw specific connections between the rubbings they are appraising and events like the despoliation of the Song tombs. The role and function of the colophon as a critical space was, rather, to identify exemplary works to be treasured and transmitted (see illus. 103 as well as 84, 97 and 104). Loyalism to the fallen Song was a complex cultural phenomenon.³7 There were a few dyed-in-the-wool Song loyalists, like the orchid painter Zheng Sixiao (1239–1316, illus. 43), who, as is well known, summarily ended his acquaintance with Zhao Mengfu when the latter accepted an official post in 1286; he also ignored people with northern accents. What Zheng Sixiao expected of Zhao Mengfu artistically was perhaps more in the line of a recently published narrative painting by another member of the Song royal clan, who would be otherwise unknown. Zhao Cangyun’s (active early Yuan, 1271–1368) Liu Chen and Ruan Zhao Entering the Tiantai Mountains (illus. 44) is a long monochrome handscroll illustrating the tale of two men who go into the mountains to pick herbs (the disguise used by loyalists to collect bones). At one point they find a bowl floating downstream, a moment straight out of the Orchid Pavilion narrative. They discover an Elysian 

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world where they are much feted but return home some months later to find that several generations in the real world have passed. Such cultural associations, displacements and distortions of dynastic reality and time offer a generic traditional view of Song loyalist reaction to the Yuan. The binary of loyalism on one side and collaboration/careerism on the other, however, is not particularly helpful for understanding individual cases, or how a person took up different positions across a spectrum according to circumstances. Ren Renfa’s inscribed painting Two Horses (Erma tu) (held in the Palace Museum, Beijing) moves beyond the issue of Song loyalism to ponder the probity or venality of the official. The art of one-time ‘recluse at court’ Zhao Mengfu went through various transformations. Broadly, his calligraphy began in the Song imperial mode, but during his first stint at court began to reference elegant, orderly Tang court calligraphy. During mid-career, in a long period in the south in charge of Confucian education, he flirted with spontaneous native Song literati modes. Finally, back in the capital as head of the Hanlin Academy, he dealt as a seasoned connoisseur with the most complex parts of the repertoire, such as cursive script traces. All the while, he was writing inscriptions in a formal, public mode of calligraphy for memorial steles being erected at official and religious buildings and tombs, contributing influentially to, if not actually commanding the way that, Yuan national culture was shaped in this genre.³8 

43 Zheng Sixiao (1239–1316), Ink Orchid, dated 1306, handscroll, ink on paper.

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44 Zhao Cangyun (active late 13th–early 14th century), detail from Liu Chen and Ruan Zhao Entering the Tiantai Mountains, handscroll, ink on paper.

As with these southern serving officials, when we turn to the individuals most associated with loyalism, it is vital to examine each case. Peter Sturman has explored the nuanced voice of Gong Kai (1222–1307), who painted the popular theme of eradicating demons.³9 Qian Xuan’s (c. 1239–1299) marginal loyalism is complicated by his admission that he was a most anti-social, even unlikeable person, and he had problems with alcohol, as did Zhao Cangyun.40 Zhou Mi would hardly have become such an influential wheeler-dealer in the Hangzhou art world had he only interacted with southern Chinese collectors. Less well-known painters like Luo Zhichuan (c. 1265–c. 1330s) who used the Li Cheng idiom to commemorate the fallen Song (see illus. 41), did have links to members of the Song yimin community in Jiangxi but also to metropolitan scholar-officials.4¹ Nonetheless, after Wen Tianxiang’s execution in 1283, the death of Zheng Sixiao in 1316 marked the collapse of Song loyalism as a primary impulse in Yuan visual art. Loyalist commemoration of the Song in early Yuan ritual and poetry was undoubtedly focused and intensified by the despoliation of the royal tombs. Peter Sturman has called attention to the appearance of some of the associated images in painting, notably in a painting by Qian Xuan of a White Lotus (Bailian tu) (illus. 45), discovered in 1970 in the tomb of an early Ming prince, Zhu Tan (1370– 1390), now in Shandong Provincial Museum.4² Qian Xuan adopts what is essentially a feminine voice, whereby the defeated Song is pictured as a beautiful woman. As a symbol of female beauty, the lotus was closely associated with the Tang beauty Yang Guifei (719–756), whose untimely execution by soldiers during the civil unrest of 756 served as a poignant image of the brutal end of the Song at the hands of the Mongols.4³ The unearthed White Lotus scroll revealed colophons by the two connoisseurs who served princess Sengge Ragi, as well as her seal, which is unexpected evidence of how members of the Mongol royal family not


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only recognized Song loyalist sentiment but actually sought to preserve its vestiges in their own art collections. According to Tao Zongyi, paintings of popular historical narratives concerning Yang Guifei, as well as about the Han Chinese statesmen Li Ling (d. 74 bce) and Su Wu (140–60 bce) (one of whom defected to the nomad camp and one remained loyal to Han), elicited colophons by men like Feng Zizhen, which is consonant with his role as a cultural intermediary to the princess. For Tao Zongyi in the mid- to late fourteenth century, however, these stories are timeless, and represent the appalling truism that, generation after generation, rulers are sunk by the charms of women and statesmen lose their integrity. He concludes, ‘Seeing [these commentaries], how can one not know fear?’44

This chapter has highlighted dissenting views of the polity following Khubilai’s incorporation of south China into the Yuan in 1276–9: those of the loyalists to the late Southern Song. The starting point was a notorious cultural moment, the ransacking of the Song imperial tombs near Hangzhou in 1285 instigated by the Tangut monk Yang Lianzhenjia. On one hand, studying this powerful cleric and his orchestration of violence opened up his network of political connections, revealing the power of Tibetan Buddhists of the Sakya sect, to which Khubilai and his consort Chabi belonged, and the power of the Central Asian viziers. On the other hand, studying Chinese outrage at the despoliation of the royal tombs and emperors’ corpses and the appropriation of contents lays bare some important cultural tropes: the voicing of rage and despair at the loss of Chinese soil to the ‘barbarians’; rallying around icons of cultural memory such as the Orchid Pavilion; seeking solace through the poetry of dissent and the consolation of Hangzhou’s vibrant art market. 

45 Qian Xuan (c. 1239–1299), White Lotus, handscroll, ink and colours on paper (with colophons after the painting by Feng Zizhen and Zhao Yan). Excavated in 1971 from the tomb of the Ming prince of Lu, Zhu Tan (d. 1389), in Zou county, Shandong province.

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Following the removal of the Song royal family and collections to Dadu after the fall of Lin’an in 1276, the requisition and plundering of Song tomb and palace precincts under Yang Lianzhenjia in the mid-1280s thus represented a second wave of violence and trauma in places that were culturally highly sensitive to Song loyalists. Yet, Yang was not an all-destructive force of humiliation: he commissioned all manner of Buddhist buildings and sculptures in and around Hangzhou. It is remarkable that so many of the Feilaifeng sculptures still survive today, making it through even the latest wave of iconoclastic violence during the Cultural Revolution (1966–76). Sensitive to the fate of the Song royal women and cultural heritage, Chabi had already died in 1281. The pro-Han crown prince Zhenjin died not long after, in 1286, just as a major civil service recruitment drive was getting underway, with the defected Song official Cheng Jufu (1249–1318) sent as an imperial envoy to south China to woo the talent. The coup de grâce on this occasion was convincing Zhao Mengfu first to attend court and then to accept a post in government – a midranking post working at the Postal Service in the Board of War. In the later 1280s, Khubilai was very satisfied with Sangha’s revenue generation. His measured civic rapprochement toward the south seems to have counterbalanced the backwash of Yang Lianzhenjia’s Buddhist activities. After Sangha’s fall, Khubilai did not disavow Yang Lianzhenjia’s actions; despite the list of his crimes and the clamour for his execution, the khan even commuted his death sentence and returned his household property to him.45 By 1299, however, Yang’s former office as commissioner of Buddhist affairs in Jiangnan was abolished.46 That Khubilai evidently deemed Song loyalism to be a dwindling threat, especially after the execution of Wen Tianxiang in 1283, seems to have given even greater impulse to its fetishization in Chinese culture after the Yuan. But Ming historians had the last word. For example, in one anecdote, after Yang Lianzhenjia was cashiered and his property repossessed by the state, the skull of emperor Lizong, which had been turned into a wine cup, ‘was bestowed upon the so-called National Preceptor’, presumably meaning the lama Danba (1230–1303). It was later spotted at a state banquet by the Hanlin academician Wei Su (1303–1372; for a colophon see illus. 98) who successfully appealed to the khan to have it reburied in its rightful place in Lizong’s tomb, the Yongmuling.47





46 Attributed to Song emperor Huizong (1082–1135; r. 1100–25), Auspicious Dragon Rock, detail from an album leaf mounted in a handscroll, ink and colours on silk. The rock in this painting may be the famous ‘Gen Marchmount’ which the emperor had shipped from south China and installed in his garden. It came to symbolize his precarious neglect of the national defences in favour of aesthetic self-cultivation, the latter embodied in his distinctive ‘slender gold’ calligraphy. The ‘Tianli zhi bao’ seal (at top left) indicates that this painting was in the Yuan imperial collection during the Tianli reign (1328–30) of the khan Tugh Temür.

nderstood as signals to the human world from deities or beings in the Heavens, omens of many kinds were carefully recorded in classical and medieval times. In the Bayeux tapestry, the appearance of Halley’s comet in the spring of 1066 was a bad omen for King Harold, a harbinger of William the Conqueror’s invasion of England later that year. The same comet was recorded in 1066 and on various other occasions in China and the correlation of such records from across Europe and Asia has become a fascinating area of intercultural philological research.¹ Belief in a correlative universe ranged widely across Yuan politics, religion and culture. In the Heavens and on the Earth, inclement weather was not merely that but also a ‘moral meteorology’ which could signal imbalances in nature and impugn the government.² In China, Khubilai would have encountered a rich seam of omen lore, dating back in imagery at least to the time of the scenes in the stone wall carvings at the Wu family shrine in Shangdong, dated to the second century ce. In more recent times, the recording of positive omens in paintings had been a major preoccupation of the Song court, exemplified by the late Northern Song artist-emperor Huizong and his academy. He compiled many large albums depicting auspicious things that served to legitimate his rule; only a few leaves survive today, including one, Cranes over Kaifeng (Ruihe tu), which illustrates the birds gracing the rooftops of the palace on New Year’s Day in 1112. We know precious little about painting in north China in the Jin and early Mongol periods due to cultural attrition, but Song Gaozong’s (r. 1127–62) court in the south also produced beneficent paintings, often with words like rui (‘auspicious’) in the title.³ Such paintings, which were widely known through connoisseurs’ records, were collected by the Yuan court, as in the case of Huizong’s Auspicious Dragon Rock (Xiang long shi; illus. 46), which entered the imperial collection in the mid-Yuan. It is likely a leaf from the same series as Cranes over Kaifeng, both being auspicious images interwoven with neo-Daoist beliefs. In exploring the Yuan visual world of omens, I want to ask questions about what value the new rulers of the Yuan placed on Chinese omen 

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48 ‘Lotus’ and ‘Pine’, sources of lotus seeds and pine nuts, from Husihui, Yinshan zhengyao (c. 1330), juan 3.

47 Anon. (Yuan, 14th century), Auspicious Grain, hanging scroll, ink and colours on paper.

lore and history, and what use they and their subjects made of it and its material traces for the better conduct of government and transformation of society. Khubilai or one of his successors may have been the patron of auspicious pictures in this tradition, like the hanging scroll Auspicious Grain (illus. 47), in which a large clump of multi-headed rice is symbolic of an imminent bountiful harvest and, by implication, of exemplary land management, social and ethnic co hesion and cosmic harmony. Direct, symbolic images like these presented often brilliantly positive impressions of the court, as well as signalling how much the nomadic Mongols valued south China for its agriculture. In addition, the Yuan’s Chineseeducated subjects would not have needed telling that since at least the Han dynasty, it had been standard to regard the appearance of multi-headed grains as an auspicious omen signifying the possession of the ‘mandate of Heaven’. The Yuan court dietary manual Yinshan zhengyao (A Soup for the Qan) illustrates every imaginable consumable plant and animal, but distinguishes between ordinary types of image – used for recording (illus. 48) – and the category of efficacious paintings of beneficent things with transformative power (for example, for pregnant women: pearls, jade, carp and bounding hounds), which are fine hanging scrolls to be viewed by members of the royal family in well-appointed domestic settings for their health and well being (see illus. 110). Such efficacious paintings may seem direct and straightforward, unambiguous in message and function, but there was a time and place for them, while they might also embody other values from antiquarianism to religion. It is actually quite difficult to contextualize the wider field of auspicious and efficacious images, what these might have looked like and how they might have been used in the Yuan. There are abundant examples of very general images, which would have been used at a popular level, with loosely defined religious connotations. One of the Buddhist deities widely revered across East Asia was the bodhisattva and folk goddess Guanyin (in Japanese, Kannon), whose name means ‘all seeing, all hearing’, exemplified by a number of figures both transmitted (illus. 49) and excavated.4 Never a well-defined figure, her image was iconographically not far from that of the Madonna of Humility introduced by Franciscans around 1300 and reproduced sporadically by Chinese stone carvers by the mid- to late 

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49 Porcelain figure of the bodhisattva Guanyin. Qingbai ware from Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province. Early Yuan, c. 1290–1310.

Yuan.5 As Guanyin’s name implies, there was no word or deed that she did not observe, providing the faithful with grounds to pray for her intercession in the human world on any personal matter. Meanwhile, the Yuan court could take the initiative in seeking to maintain cosmic balance and harmony between the Three Powers (or Three Realms, san cai) of the cosmos: Heaven, Earth and Humanity. Khubilai’s observatories and academies existed, in part, to regulate the calendar so as to stay in tune with the changes in nature and mitigate against the unexpected, but also predict, record and explain any cosmic phenomena to him (illus. 50). In practice, the interpretation of signs 

Heaven’s Omens: Earthquakes, Typhoons, Floods, Dragons

50 Guanxingtai Observatory, Gaochengzhen, Dengfeng, Henan province. Originally built in 1276 by Guo Shoujing (1231–1316). The observation turret and surrounding measuring devices have been extensively restored.

51 overleaf: Anon. (latter half of the 13th century), Dragon and Tiger, latter half of the 13th century, hanging scroll, ink on silk.

was not always clear. Court patronage, for example, of Buddhist and Daoist rituals and practices, was another means to maintain equilibrium. A talismanic early Yuan handscroll in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, by the Daoist celestial master Zhang Yucai (active 1294–1316) and depicting dragons cavorting among dense clouds, rocks and billowing waves, bears the title Beneficent Rain (Linyu tu).6 It is in the tradition of Chen Rong’s (active 1235–62) eleven-metre-long scroll of Nine Dragons, dated 1244, which bears colophons by the Yuan Daoist master Wu Quanjie (1269–1346) and the Hanlin academician Ouyang Xuan (1283– 1357).7 Here, we illustrate the theme with a late thirteenth-century hanging scroll painting, Dragon and Tiger, also in Boston (illus. 51), which was symbolic of harmony between two cardinal directions, east and west. Significantly, historians chose to record that Khubilai was out hunting close to Dragon Tiger Tower outside the capital when a devastating earthquake struck in 1290, as we shall see below. Although, unlike tigers, dragons could not be hunted, caged in a menagerie or skinned for purposes of interior decoration in a ger or eaten, they were occasionally sighted in Yuan China, to great panic, specifically in the years 1292, 1293, 1297, 1339, 1349, 1352–67 (seven times) and 1368, as Timothy Brook has vividly recounted. 8 Sometimes the appearance of a dragon heralded almighty rains after periods of drought, unleashing deadly floods. The places where they appeared were also significant, including ritual sites for praying for rain, like Dragon Mountain 

Yuan Drama We can get a sense of the power of response between the three realms of Heaven, Earth and Humanity, and of its cultural significance, by looking to another of the major art forms of this period, drama, one also frequently celebrated in the visual arts.9 Actors, along with skilled artisans and clerics, were one of the categories of individuals who were spared when the Mongols put defeated populations to the sword during the early conquest period. By the early fourteenth century, Yuan drama was widely recognized among critics as having reached a historical high-tide mark. Writing in the early 1320s, the dramatist and phonologist Zhou Deqing (active c. 1314–24) regarded works by the Four Great Yuan Playwrights as foundational: ‘For glory, completeness and complexity in drama, there is nothing like the present time [that is, the previous century].’ Of these four masters – Guan Hanqing (c. 1210– c. 1298), Zheng Guangzu (active 1294), Bai Pu (b. 1226) and Ma Zhiyuan (1250?–1324) – he said that their ‘rhymes were utterly in keeping with the sounds of nature, their words penetrated the speech of the world.’10 Zhou Deqing came to be writing on this topic as he believed that standard rhymes were required in order to compose drama. It seems that dictionaries had not kept pace with developments in the pronunciation of Chinese words over many centuries, so he resolved to set out new standards by updating pronunciations and reorganizing the system for categorizing the four tones (level, rising, falling, dipping). The book which resulted was an important study of pronunciation, tone and rhyme, Zhongyuan yinyun (Central plains pronunciation by rhyme), completed in 1324 and printed in 1333. Whether or not such a study would have appeared if not for the Mongol reunification is debatable. However, that it established the language of the intelligentsia of the capital region as a standard for Chinese pronunciation and that this was the beginning of Mandarin Chinese is widely recognized. Drama scenes began to appear on north China ceramics such as Cizhou wares during the Jin and pre-Yuan Mongol period (see illus. 64); such scenes would also become a staple of Yuan blue-and-white and underglaze red (see illus. 54) decoration from around 1340.11 These scenes treated topical themes which often touched upon social justice as well as nomad– Chinese relations.

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(Longshan) in Shandong Province, or, in the final year of the Yuan dynasty, flying out of a well in the palace of the former crown prince, as clear a sign as any of the emperor’s imminent departure from the palace.¹² Of course, dragons appeared as auspicious images in more humdrum circumstances in the decorative repertoire on all kinds of luxury goods, from ceramics to silks, where they imaged a desire for more regularized transformations in nature’s state, along with cranes (signifying longevity) and a type of cloud popular in the Yuan known as ruyi (‘wishes come true’).¹³ Notions of resonance and response formed part of the backbone of Yuan drama (see boxed text). Based on a harrowing folk tale about a filial woman, Injustice to Dou E (Dou E yuan) is one of the representative works by the greatest of the four masters, Guan Hanqing (c. 1210– 1298), who worked in Dadu. The work’s full title was the Injustice to Dou E that Moved Heaven and Stirred Earth (Gantian dongdi Dou E yuan) so it began with two ideas of emotive response, gan and dong, to move or stir. Reactions to events and stories were commonly framed as being enough to make one weep until tears ran down one’s face, as we find in Tao Zongyi’s reaction to reading the ‘Biography of Righteous Scholar Tang’, the man who sold everything he had so he could perform rituals after the desecration of the corpses of members of the Song royal family at the hands of Yang Liangzhenjia in 1285.¹4 The play Injustice to Dou E comprises a prologue and four acts. Falling into debt, Dou E’s father sends her away as a young bride, but her husband dies two years later and she is left to fend for herself and her mother-in-law. Dou E declines to marry a ‘protector’, but he is not deterred. When Dou E’s mother-inlaw develops a sudden craving for soup, he plots to poison her and thus remove the last barrier between him and Dou E. However, the plot goes wrong and he contrives to murder his own father, a crime he then blames on Dou E. After being arrested and tortured, Dou E confesses, in order to shield her mother-in-law from false accusation, and is sentenced to death. A later woodblock print scene of uncertain (late Ming?) date depicts events unfolding at the moment of Dou E’s unjust execution (illus. 52), as she kneels disrobed in preparation for decapitation. (Such punishments and others involving cutting, mutilation or dismemberment were necessarily carried out on the unclothed body, as is suggested by Buddhist judgement scenes known as the Ten Kings of Hell [illus. 53].) Both the prefect, Tao 

52 ‘The Execution of Dou E’, scene from Injustice to Dou E that Moved Heaven and Stirred Earth by Guan Hanqing (c. 1210–c. 1298). Woodblock-printed book; reprint of Yuan qu xuan (Selected Yuan plays), late Ming dynasty, first half of the 17th century. The drama designs on blueand-white porcelain, like the Xixiang ji scene on the jar in the Victoria & Albert Museum, suggest that Yuan dramas were illustrated at that time, perhaps in the way that pinghua texts were. However, few Yuan drama illustrations survive and the corpus of extant print illustrations, which may be based on Yuan originals, is coeval with the explosion of literacy in the late Ming period, as in this case.

53 Lu Zhongyuan (active Yuan, 1271–1368), ‘Great King Yanluo [Yamaraja]’, one of the Ten Kings of Hell, hanging scroll, ink and colours on silk.

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Wu, and the executioner have observed dark clouds on the horizon and a natural response seen closer by in the fluttering pennant. Before the sentence is carried out, Dou E protests her innocence and proclaims that three things will happen after she dies if she is right: her blood will only stain her clothes and not fall onto the ground; there will be an extraordinary fall of snow in the middle of summer, and snow will cover her body; there will be a three-year drought in the local region, Chuzhou. All these things duly occur. One of four scenes on an unusual mid-fourteenth-century underglaze red jar (with a bizarre replacement metal neck) appears to show just such a scene from a drama, in which people are praying for rain during a drought; in another scene, under a lowering cloud canopy, rain begins to pour as an enormous dragon flies in dramatically amid whirls of cloud (illus. 54). After three years, Dou E appears as a ghost before her father, who investigates the case, sees the guilty punished and takes in Dou E’s mother-in-law as per his late daughter’s wishes. The theme of filial piety, a cardinal Confucian virtue, plays a major role in the play at a time when Chinese society was placing a new emphasis on the category of ‘exemplary women’ (lienü). The Classic of Filial Piety (Xiao jing) was not an uncommon text in any period of dynastic history, but what publishers marketed as ‘new, completely illustrated editions’ of it and other texts like it were a notable feature of early fourteenthcentury printing, and adopted the same format of image over text as the popular genre of illustrated dramas (pinghua).¹5 In her dealings with her mother-in-law and father, the character of Dou E  in the play chimes with these changing mores. She even shares her given name with Cao E , a fourteen-year-old girl of the Eastern Han period, who was commemorated as an exemplary woman (she drowned trying to recover her father’s body) in various artworks, including a narrative painting dateable to before 1330, Four Exemplars of Filial Piety (Sixiao tu; National Palace Museum, Taipei), which will be discussed again in chapter Five. In Injustice to Dou E the heroine is, in her own way, also reconciled with her father in death. At the same time, Dou E’s situation relates closely to the filial conduct of the other three exemplars in the Taipei painting, who all dutifully undertake arduous or self-denying tasks to provide food for ailing parents. First, the wife of Wang Wuzi removes flesh from her thigh to make a medicinal soup 

54 ‘Praying for rain’ jar. Underglaze red jar (guan; with later metallic neck addition). Yuan dynasty, mid-14th century.

Heaven’s Omens: Earthquakes, Typhoons, Floods, Dragons

55 ‘Wang Xiang melts ice to fish in winter’ from Four Exemplars of Filial Piety, dateable to before 1330, handscroll, ink and colours on silk.

for her sick mother-in-law. Then Lu Ji of the Three Kingdoms period (220–80) presents oranges to his mother, who loved oranges. Thirdly, Wang Xiang in the Western Jin period (265–316) lies on a frozen river in winter to melt a hole in the ice so he can fish for the carp his sick mother wanted to eat. The illustration of this scene (illus. 55) is a remarkable conflation of events and motives. To the right, people are already gathering to witness the gruesome spectacle of the filial Wang Xiang lying on the ice. Below him, as if out of natural justice, the carp willingly come to his hand. That Dou E’s blood does not fall upon the earth stands for the earth’s emotive refusal to be party to the injustice. The ominous clouds in the print scene are the harbingers of the remarkable phenomenon of heavy snow in the sixth month, Heaven’s emotive response. Later, Heaven and Earth will further decline to act in harmony with proper nature, to produce the drought, which is in keeping with and thus the just desert of the morally corrupted men of Chuzhou. One of the themes which repeatedly surfaces in the arts of the Yuan period is probity, or rather its pervasive lack among all levels of office-holder. In this play, the evil deeds carried out by Dou E’s ‘protector’ are compounded by a failure of the criminal justice system, which was synonymous with local officialdom. In practice, grievances could arise from a range of situations. Officials such as prefectural governors called upon to adjudicate such cases might be well-meaning but blundering, having little judicial nous; or they might act with criminal levity or indeed venality. It was not just the common people who voiced grievances against the


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system and abuses of it; scholar-officials did so too, often using modes of high culture, such as paintings or poems, as a vehicle. An example cited previously is Ren Renfa’s painting of Two Horses (Palace Museum, Beijing), in which a healthy and a lean horse preface the scholar-artist’s long inscription puzzling about the probity of peers in officialdom.¹6 These three extraordinary natural events in Injustice to Dou E are not merely symbolic of Heaven and Earth’s reaction to the injustice, but are also the embodiment of it. That such events occur in one of the best-known plays of the Yuan period illustrates that popular belief in this contingent relationship between Heaven, Earth and humankind was common currency. Natural phenomena really were significant responses to human actions. It was not just ordinary people, or at least, ordinary theatre-going people, who believed this. Khubilai khan himself was deeply concerned to know the reasons for seismic and climatological events. We will come back, later in this chapter, to the major earthquake in Zhili, the capital region, late in his reign in the autumn of 1290, but first we look at responses to some other natural disasters.

Kamikaze : The Japan Campaigns The Chinggisid model of kingship and empire building had territorial expansion at its core. Khubilai came to the throne as a seasoned general who had campaigned against the Southern Song in the southeastern region of China in and around Yunnan. After becoming khan in 1260, his early rule over the north China region was a time of anticipation: sooner or later the Southern Song would fall. Although the founding of the Yuan dynasty in 1271 announced a new polity – the end of expansion and the beginning of consolidation and acculturation – the campaign to incorporate Song into the empire was not yet complete. Even after it was wrapped up in 1279, however, Khubilai continued to send campaigns further south and west into modern Indo-China (Burma, Vietnam, islands of the South China Sea region and beyond), but also east, to Japan, twice with disastrous results. The vassal Koryo˘ kingdom on the Korean peninsula thus came to mark the easternmost extent of the Mongol empire in Eurasia, which stretched west as far as the gates of Vienna, confirming it as a continental and not a maritime realm.¹7 Khubilai had had designs on Japan since as early as 1266, sending numerous envoys to Koryo˘ to co-opt Korean diplomatic assistance in demanding submission and tribute from Japan. In part his aim was to deprive the Song of income from trade with Japan at the port of Hakata (modern Fukuoka), where his armies would attempt to establish beachheads.¹8 These men met, to his annoyance and 

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56 Buddhist gilt ‘King Ashoka pagoda’, Northern Song (960–1127), dated 1011. Unearthed in 2008 at the Changgansi temple, Nanjing.

dismay, with hindrance and delay among the Koreans and undiplomatic dismissal in Japan. The Koreans themselves were frequently raided by Japanese pirates at this time and cited the tempestuous 100-mile sea channel between Korea and Japan as an excuse for inaction. Japan at the time was under military rule by the Kamakura government of Hōjō Tokimune (1251–1284), the regent and de facto ruler and a major patron of Zen Buddhism. The Kamakura period (1185–1333) would end not long afterwards. We may imagine that Khubilai presented lavish diplomatic gifts, just as he received, according to the annals of his reign, a steady stream of ‘precious’ and ‘regional objects’ as tribute from envoys from all over the Southeast and East Asia regions. Ivory and rhino-horn carvings from Southeast Asian island kingdoms were common as well as dyed textiles, pearls and jade, wild animals like tigers, lions and fancy birds, medicines, skins and musicians. Records of his reign mention gifts like a ‘golden Buddhist pagoda’ being presented by ambassadors from Java in the seventh month of 1283.¹9 In the third month of 1279, the Board of Rites instructed that court painters should record the presentation of tribute by envoys in a painting based on the ancient model, in order that their customs and local productions should be depicted ‘as proof of the glory of the age’.²0 Tribute-bearers from Korea and Vietnam were particularly frequent at court; thus, of the countries in the China cultural sphere, only Japan was missing.²¹ What is less clear are the kinds of treasure Khubilai presented in return, or as overtures to non-dependent states like Japan. Perhaps he reciprocated in kind with regional, China-made objects like the very large, yet still portable Buddhist gilt ‘King Ashoka (273–236 bce) pagoda’ (containing relics of the Buddha), which was discovered in 2008 and displayed in 2012 in a loan exhibition to Tokyo National Museum (illus. 56).²² Yet Khubilai can only have had a limited understanding of the internal politics of isolated Kamakura Japan. At a time of social instability in Japan, wishing to send out a signal domestically, the Kamakura regime adopted a tough stance against the Yuan: Tokimune initially turned Khubilai’s ambassadors away without response, sometimes not even allowing them to land, and then, after the first invasion attempt in 1274, he started to behead them. Nothing affronted Khubilai more than the execution of his envoys. 

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A remarkable eyewitness record of these military clashes survives in the form of the Mongol Invasions of Japan handscrolls, dated to the second month of 1293 (see illus. 57 and 58). Depicting both failed Mongol invasions of 1274 and 1281, these scrolls were commissioned by the samurai Takezaki Suenaga (1246–1314), who fought against the invaders, and were executed in standard Japanese narrative-scroll format combining passages of textual description in kana calligraphy interspersed among passages of pictorial illustration. The pictorial and textual contents of these scrolls were damaged and/or scattered over the following centuries, but ‘rediscovered’ in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and subsequently restored and remounted, although not in the correct order. Despite losses, the scroll-painting is seen in places to glorify Suenaga’s role in the war, for instance where he is seen valiantly leading a charge on his bleeding mount (towards the end of hostilities in the first invasion) or bringing in two enemy heads as trophies (at the end of the second invasion; illus. 57).²³ A major study of the scroll set, led by Thomas D. Conlan and available online, allows us to compare Suenaga’s original late thirteenth-century version with later copies, to see the contents of the scrolls virtually remounted in the correct order, and to identify original passages and areas of restoration. Although Khubilai’s ambitions against Japan were twice frustrated by untimely typhoons, the legendary kamikaze (‘divine winds’) that twice sank his fleet and thereby saved Japan from further attack, Conlan has speculated that Japan’s warriors were more than a match for the Mongols and ‘in little need of divine intervention’.²4


57 Heads of enemies, from the Mongol Invasions of Japan, Japan, Kamakura period, late 13th century, first of two handscrolls, ink and colours on paper.

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58 Naval battle scene, from the Mongol Invasions of Japan, Japan, Kamakura period, late 13th century, second of two handscrolls, ink and colours on paper.

Despite the weather, Khubilai mounted the two major marine assaults after the failure of diplomatic overtures, his fleets supplemented by ships demanded from and constructed – hastily and grudgingly – by the Koryo˘ court in Korea, the staging post for the invasions. Due to the haste, some of the 900 ships (300 cargo ships, 300 corvettes, 300 water transports) used to transport the force of 28,000 in the first assault in 1274 were constructed in the lighter Korean draught, rather than using the stable Southern Song design. The second invasion of 1281 comprised a much larger force of 40,000 Mongol, Korean and Han Chinese (from north China) seamen and soldiers which shipped from Korea, and another of 100,000 southern Chinese, referred to as the ‘southern barbarian army’ (manjun), which sailed from the port of Ningbo in Zhejiang province in what craft remained of the Song navy.²5 Delays in the meeting of the two armies allowed the Japanese to prepare stone defences – a long masonry wall, seen at the start of the second invasion scroll, designed to prevent the invaders from establishing a beachhead – and then, on the 27th day of the seventh month, the typhoon struck. Many of the 3,000 survivors were captured and enslaved or else butchered and their corpses thrown into the sea. Remarkably, unable to bear the affront and these losses, Khubilai was planning a third invasion of Japan when he died in 1294. Southern Chinese resistance put an end to any such ambitions on the part of his successors. The Mongol Invasions scrolls may be mined as evidence in different ways. They provide some visual evidence of the material culture of the period, such as of


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the types of sea-going craft in use during the war.²6 A naval battle scene illustrates how much smaller and lighter the Japanese craft were – some little more than flatbottomed skiffs powered by sweeps and capable of carrying barely ten men – in contrast to the invasion fleet’s warships. The latter are beamy and elaborately decorated vessels, which had high poop decks, anchor capstans mounted over the stem and matting for protection along the gunwales. A flush deck above a deep hold provided ample room for fighting as well as for the drums, cymbals and pennants used to coordinate manoeuvres (illus. 58). In fact, Northeast and Southeast Asia are two regions in which wrecks from the Yuan period have been explored by modern marine archaeologists. A wreck found off the west coast of Korea at Sinan, a ship bound for Japan which sank in around 1323, was carrying 20,000 pieces of ceramics, of which 14,000 were celadons from the Longquan kilns of Zhejiang province, some of high quality and carrying designs rarely seen in China. Soon after Khubilai’s attacks, trade was quickly re-established, evinced by this cargo, which has its own gallery in the National Museum of Korea in Seoul (illus. 59). A Chinese ship known as the Turiang sank off the coast of Malaysia in the fourteenth century (possibly the mid-fourteenth century) carrying wares from many countries in the region including Vietnam and Thailand. Two other ships which sank off the coast of Malaysia in the fourteenth century, known as the Nanyang and the Longquan, have been surveyed but not excavated. Ceramics carried in these vessels as well as Yuan maritime trade will be examined later, in chapter Seven. Finally, returning to the Mongol invasions of Japan, we may mention the ongoing marine excavations near Takashima Island, west of Hakata (Fukuoka), in the bay where reputedly over 4,000 Mongol ships foundered in the 1281 typhoon. In addition to ship wreckage (hulls, nails, stone and wooden anchors), seals of office, pottery and pottery ordnance, pieces of armour and everyday utensils such as combs and eating utensils have been discovered.²7 Other aspects of material culture can be gleaned from the Mongol Invasions scrolls. Looking at the Mongol naval ships, it is clear that they were elaborately decorated, evidence which tallies with what we know from elsewhere about the Mongol liking for finery. Notice the red, black and white trim along the gunwales, the white paint acting 

59 Vase with a pierced lotus design, Yuan dynasty, first quarter of the 14th century, Longquan ware, recovered from the Sinan shipwreck (1323), Korea.

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as ground for decorative flourishes along the lines of classic scrolls. Elsewhere we see lobed brackets, scrolling patterns and lappets – of the types found on a wide array of luxury arts and crafts consumed by the Mongols. There are also Buddhist emblems. In a Mongol landing craft, shields lined along the ship’s side are painted with swastikas  that have tail-like calligraphic flourishes added at each corner. Naval pennants and military flags are not simply rectangular but are elaborately cut and stitched around the rectangular frames to resemble flames or clouds, as if the signals were part of, or forces of, nature. Some Mongol metal, such as conical helmets, was among the objects recovered from the seabed. One confirms that the extent of decorative finish on the trappings of the invading army is no exaggeration: it is emblazoned on each side with a very fine dragon. Close to where Suenaga leads a cavalry charge in the first invasion scroll is an exploding shell. Although Conlan believes this was painted later (Guided View, 7), evidence that the Mongols were using ordnance has been uncovered with the excavation of pottery shells at Takashima. Stubby carronadelike weapons have been discovered in China, such as a small (35.3 cm long) cannon dated to 1332, found in Beijing in 1935 and now in the National Museum of China, which is believed to be the earliest dated example. Two other points may be made. One is the discovery of a bronze seal in Phagspa script, which washed up in 1974 and provides valuable evidence of the use of this script for official purposes at this early date.²8 I will consider the role of Phagspa script in Yuan culture further in the last chapters. The other point concerns the Japanese depiction of the Mongols. Conlan observes that the very large figure of a Mongol general is ‘out of scale’.²9 In fact, in China also, Mongol soldiers were typically depicted as very large, powerful men, capable of pulling tightly strung bows, as is seen in the earliest extant edition of Shilin guangji (1328–32), for instance, which shows archers demonstrating the infantry technique for shooting a bow (illus. 60) and the cavalry technique known as the Parthian shot (illus. 61). The technique is also commonly seen in Persian painting (illus. 62).³0 In fact, all the Mongol figures in the Shilin guangji are large. Such pictures tally with the Mongols’ self-image as large people and skilled equestrians, as seen in paintings like Khubilai Khan Hunting (see illus. 21) and Shooting Geese (illus. 63). The suggestion is that East Asians generally – and perhaps even Central and West Asians and Europeans, although this requires further research – regarded the Mongols as big, martial people. This type of narrative scroll-painting, with alternating passages of Japanese kana-script calligraphy and painted illustration, is usually thought of as being typically Japanese. Indeed, the late Heian (794–1185) up to the Kamakura is regarded as the classical period for this genre. Little art of this type was thought to 

60 ‘Infantry archer demonstrating shooting technique’, from Shilin guangji (1328–32). Although the illustrations of archery are contemporary and topical, featuring powerful Mongol soldiers, the accompanying text includes a quote on shooting technique from one of the Confucian classics (Li ji), a default literary response of China’s scholarly community. The soldiers are extremely large and powerful, and almost burst out of the frame of the block: unusually, the designer has used a double page spread across the block, with no background and no text boxes but rather free floating texts.

61 ‘Cavalry archer demonstrating shooting technique’, from Shilin guangji, as above. The horse is jumping over a sword on the ground which may be a weapon dropped in battle, an effect commonly seen in Persian battle scenes. Note the highly textured quality to the horse’s tack and the rider’s robe: the Mongols are rightly associated with fine clothing such as the gold brocade nasij. This rich textural quality is a common denominator in so many applied arts of this period.

62 ‘Parthian shot’ (lower right) in a scene of mounted Mongol warriors from a 15th-century volume of Rashid Al-Din’s (1247– 1318) Jami’ al-Tawarikh. Note the fallen weaponry and armour on the ground, and the vivid (if contrived) way the archer’s horse is about to leap out of the picture frame.

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63 Anon. (Yuan, 1271–1368), Shooting Geese, hanging scroll, ink and colours on silk.

have survived elsewhere in East Asia, but recently some examples have surfaced to make us reconsider our assumptions. The handscroll in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, comprising passages of text and illustration, has been re-identified as depicting scenes from the career of a Yuan official (see illus. 13). Its subject is loosely comparable to the narrative of Suenaga and his meritorious deeds. Another handscroll comprising passages of text and illustration is Liu Chen and Ruan Zhao Entering the Tiantai Mountains dating to around 1300, discussed previously (see illus. 44).³¹ Despite Japan’s self-imposed isolation during the period corresponding to the early Yuan, there is evidence of shared cultural modes such as narrative picture-scrolls, as well as of repeated and extensive cultural exchanges, notably in relation to Buddhist religion and culture, across East Asia during the late medieval and early modern phases of history. Juxtaposing the Mongol Invasions of Japan with these Chinese examples, however, also highlights some regional distinctions in the elaboration of this scroll format. The choice of Japanese kana calligraphy, a syllabary (originally based on Chinese characters) for spoken Japanese which eschews use of Kanji or HanChinese characters, provides an important aesthetic platform, one that allows for formal displays of emotion keyed to nature. The painting itself is in a complementary vernacular style, employing many standard devices. What stands out is the vitality of the figures and the liveliness of the depiction. The painting of the first invasion, for instance, is literally action-packed. It opens to a busy scene of mounted warriors, chattering as they leave their staging post, travelling past a shrine and through a forest. Generating momentum in the scroll, many of the forms are tipped forward, to the left, such as bows, trees and the front quarters of the warhorses. At the same time, the random directions of interpersonal communications and profiles of other pictorial features create a vivid lattice of forms and moments across the picture surface. Later, arrows are seen flying left and right, but the direction of scrolling and viewing, always from right to left, mirrors the direction and underscores the outcome of the Japanese attacks. Even today the scrolls retain a kind of talismanic power as royal possessions, ensuring the continuity of tradition and warding off the threats from outside. Despite his belief in omens, Khubilai was not deterred by these two typhoons and was planning a third invasion attempt on Japan when he died. Whether out of principle or pragmatism, his successors harboured no similar ambitions and no further major military adventures were launched by the Yuan outside China. Khubilai’s militarism might even be seen as an aberration, for despite the protracted hostilities between him and the Kamakura military junta, business-as-usual relationships were quickly restored, as the speedy resumption of trade and religious links across the Yellow and East China Seas show. The evidence from visual and 

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64 ‘Shooting two birds with one arrow’, detail of a Yuan-dynasty painted scene on a Cizhou stoneware pillow. The scene may depict the Sui dynasty general Zhangsun Sheng (552–609), who was famously able to shoot two birds with one arrow.

material culture also underscores the cultural common ground. The Japanese syllabary, for instance, was well known to Chinese: it takes its place alongside all the other regional writing systems in the late Yuan calligraphic history, Shushi huiyao (A Compilation of the essentials of the history of calligraphy). What about that other shared characteristic, the celebration of military skill? The mould of ‘Chinese art history’ leaves an impression that militarism was not something that would have been celebrated in China’s arts. But this is the Yuan, so it should not be an unexpected theme, as the Shilin guangji illustrations of bow techniques show. There are other examples which allow us to flesh out this theme in less exclusive, non-literary echelons of Yuan society. One such is a Cizhou stoneware pillow, in the collection of the Shandong Museum, painted with a narrative scene probably from the life of the great bowman Zhangsun Sheng (552–609), a general of Xianbei nomad origin from north China (illus. 64). The scene looks typically Yuan, however, recalling similar genretype scenes of Mongols in Shilin guangji, with the protagonist in the centre flanked by a hound and attendants, one carrying a banner and another a falcon. Schematic tufts of grass like these, comprised of a horizontal line sprouting short blades arranged in a fan shape, are seen not just in popular images in Shilin guangji, but also in Persian painting, as is the effect of repeating the poses of horses. These qualities would likely have lent a cosmopolitan feel to the scene, in addition to the bearded and be-turbaned appearance of the main character. A general during the Sui dynasty, Zhangsun Sheng was also the father of the girl (her personal name 

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is unknown; 601–636) who married Li Shimin, later the Tang emperor Taizong, and of Zhangsun Wuji (594–659), one of Taizong’s strategists. Zhangsun Sheng had deeply impressed rulers in China and on the steppe alike with his extraordinary skill at archery. Famously, while serving the Northern Zhou (557–81) court, Zhangsun Sheng escorted a princess to the steppe to be married to the Turkish chieftain. There, he demonstrated his ability to shoot two birds with a single arrow.³² While the specific clientele for this pillow is difficult to pin down, it is evident from its decoration that military skills were widely appreciated at certain levels of north China society, if at best ignored in literary culture. The story of Zhangsun Sheng also has some value as an intercultural image, underscoring the fact that martial and in particular equestrian and archery skills were not unique to steppe nomads, and that there were historical precedents whereby exemplars from China, who were culturally if not necessarily ethnically Chinese, had achieved fame among nomads.

The Zhili Earthquake Another extraordinary example of the ominous power of nature was the Zhili earthquakes of 1290–91, just a few years before Khubilai’s death and the beginning of a succession of natural disasters, the first of which occurred during the reign of his grandson and successor Temür. Given its political timing, it should not be a surprise that events such as the Zhili earthquakes might be recorded as part of the ‘exemplary biography’ of a meritorious official. It is in the biography of Zhao Mengfu in the Yuan shi that we read how: In Zhiyuan 27 [1290] . . . there was a series of earthquakes, which were especially powerful in Beijing. There were landslides and black, muddy water spewed out, flooding the land. The dead and injured numbered a hundred thousand, and the emperor [Khubilai] became gravely concerned at this. At the time of one quake, the emperor was out hunting [close to the capital] at Longhutai [Dragon Tiger Tower]; he sent Arghun Sali back post-haste to convene a plenary meeting of the officials in the Jixian and Hanlin Academies so that they might determine the cause of the disaster. In their deliberations, they were too afraid to implicate [Khubilai’s chief financier] Sangha and merely dredged up lines from the classics, the Book of Change and Zuozhuan, and writings on the Five Elements saying that the regulation of human affairs and the responses to Heaven’s transformations were in conflict. None dared voice the link with current government policy. [Sangha’s implementation of a land 

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tax, although causing severe privations among the people, was being ruthlessly enforced.] None dared try to put a stop to these practices. As Zhao Mengfu and Arghun Sali both took a strongly benevolent view [toward the common people], Mengfu advised Sali to memorialise the emperor presenting a plan to rescue the empire, arguing that the people were exhausted and oppressive taxes should be alleviated, and that if it were made so then these heavenly omens and signs would cease. Arghun Sali sent up the memorial using Mengfu’s words. The emperor adopted it.³³ The violence and scale of the Zhili earthquake on 27 September 1290 – and its powerful aftershocks – must have been truly frightening. From recent film recordings of the Indian and Pacific Ocean tsunamis we may recognize in this description the effect of ‘black, muddy water spewing out, flooding the land’. Major buildings as far away as Liaoning province were damaged.³4 Modern seismologists estimate a magnitude of 6.8 and place the epicentre just north of Beijing in Ningcheng (Inner Mongolia).³5 What matters though is the effect on Khubilai. Since he was hunting, the court was in recess, but he was concerned enough by the occurrence of this major seismic event to have the empire’s leading academicians recalled. Since Khubilai liked hunting – and liked to be portrayed hunting, as the painting attributed to Liu Guandao dated to the early spring of 1280 attests (see illus. 21) – he could not have avoided noting the timing of the quake, as he was near Dragon Tiger Tower, and wondering what it meant about his kingship. The Yuan shi source makes an assumption that China’s tradition, rather than that of any other culture represented at court, could provide the most ancient and authoritative learning on this subject. Although Khubilai governed at the intersection of Mongol and Chinese worldviews – since khans of the Chinggisid lineage ruled by a kind of divine right under Tengri, while from a Chinese perspective an emperor was given legitimacy as the ‘son of Heaven’ – still, we may note that in this case, he deferred to China’s learning. Regarding the Zhili quake, the question is not so much whether the leading scholars of the day believed that such events were signs from Heaven as what they did about them. Obviously this narrative is from an ‘exemplary biography’ redacted by historians of Ming China, and contains strong elements of hagiography, notably an aim to demonstrate the benevolence, integrity and courage of Zhao Mengfu and his Inner Asian associate Arghun Sali (1245–1307). (Sali would shortly after suffer a bloody beating at the hands of Khubilai’s bodyguards for denouncing Sangha.) At the same time, the authors make it clear the quakes were a sign of Heaven’s displeasure at Sangha’s abuse of power and his policies, yet at this point 

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65 Zhao Mengfu (1254–1322), detail from Mind Landscape of Xie Youyu, handscroll, ink and colours on silk.

no courtier was willing to challenge him for fear of retribution, hence the vague response – dredging up learned citations on cosmological theory from the classics. Although this explanation lacked any connection with the daily reality of government, it did prompt some reflection on the problem, for this was not the end of the matter. Sangha discovered Zhao Mengfu and Arghun Sali’s edict and challenged it, leading to a furious debate at court about his fiscal policies and ultimately about his abuse of power. Zhao Mengfu’s short handscroll painting, known as the Mind Landscape of Xie Youyu (illus. 65), was, I have argued, a response to the events which followed the quake in which he pictured an ancient in a landscape of auspicious omens, the lianlimu trees.³6 To Chinese scholars like Zhao Mengfu, it was relevant that the interpretation and recording of omens at the courts of China dated, arguably, to the beginning of history when diviners to the Shang (c. 1500–c. 1030 bce) rulers interpreted the cracks on roasted turtle plastrons and ox scapulae as messages from the ancestors in their correlative realm of the cosmos. Vying in significance was the seriousness with which omens were taken at court. Painted at the time of the Zhili quakes, the Mind Landscape of Xie Youyu provides a useful parallel perspective on the reception and use of omens at court. The painting purports to be an old masterwork done using ‘primitive’ techniques of spatial depiction and outline but functions in reality as a barely disguised selfportrait of the artist in the guise of an ancient, who, as noted, fashioned for himself the seemingly contradictory persona of a ‘recluse at court’ (chaoyin). Zhao Mengfu effectively recreated a recorded work by the pioneering Gu Kaizhi, in which Gu portrayed the courtier Xie Kun not in his court finery in the city, but as a solitary rustic among ‘hill and dale’, a celebrated mise en scène. Zhao Mengfu reprised the topic using an archaistic mode of painting: we see the blue-green colouring of


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early landscape painting; and the use of ‘simplistic’ scale and spatial arrangements whereby the cliff face appears tipped up toward the picture plane and the forms appear frontal. As far as the brushwork goes, the thin, centred-tip outline technique, though emulating that seen in early painting, particularly that associated with Gu Kaizhi, is actually technically highly accomplished, as we would expect of a painter recognized as the finest calligrapher of the age. Various of the Yuan colophons in the backing paper place this work early in Zhao Mengfu’s career, that is, during his first stint of official service in the north from 1287 to Khubilai’s death in 1294. The difficulty has been plausibly to position the painting, with its auspicious omens, within this timeframe. The omens here are the lianlimu or ‘trees of conjoined cosmic pattern’: double-trunked trees which appear to grow from one root or which are seen to embrace one another with their branches. Apart from the magnolia bushes close to the figure, all the trees are these anthropomorphic pines, which, as layered images, do double duty for the wilderness and for courtiers, making the scene oscillate between court and country. Such omens did not appear at random, however, but at specific, timely moments, as we have seen. Likewise, Zhao Mengfu’s painting is specific in its formal referencing of early painting, in terms of its subject, outline quality, use of colour, rendering of space, lack of signature, silk medium and handscroll format. When we probe the lifetime of the subject, Xie Kun, we find that it was during his service at court, in the reign of Sima Shao (r. 323–5), that these auspicious double-trunked trees appeared. According to the inscription beside the lianlimu trees at the Wu family shrine, they only appear when the emperor’s virtue spreads throughout the land, or, as we may suppose, when Khubilai’s moral kingship was no longer obscured by the corrupt Sangha and his clique. ³7 Sangha was indeed dismissed from office, investigated and finally executed in 1291. The gloss put on the Zhili earthquakes by later Chinese historians is clear: they signalled the appalling privations being put upon the common people by Sangha and motivated upright men to challenge this situation. Khubilai may have been forced to accept this conclusion at the time.

The occurrence of freak weather events, pandemics, plagues and seismic and other such activities – or sloughs as Timothy Brook has dubbed them when they wrought havoc in concert – was recorded across the Yuan and Ming periods, suggesting that these were not just phenomena emblematic of the compressed Yuan dynastic cycle. However, here it is the cultural responses to such events that have been our concern. ‘Water is both the curse and the blessing of the Middle Kingdom’, the compilers of the Yuan shi observed, introducing the 

Heaven’s Omens: Earthquakes, Typhoons, Floods, Dragons

66 Possibly by Anige (1245–1306), gilt-bronze figure of the bodhisattva Manjushri, early Yuan dynasty, dated 1305.

section on rivers and canals which details unrelenting efforts to control China’s vast watercourses.³8 A half-century of serious flooding began in 1301 and was especially severe between 1319 and 1332. By 1328, after seawalls were being breached, the court was instructing Tibetan monks to cast some 216 statues of the Buddha to be placed along the coast, a focus of their prayers for divine assistance, only for a tidal wave to sweep them away. Various dated bronze Buddhist figures survive, among them one of the Bodhisattva Manjusri dated 1305 in the Palace Museum, Beijing (illus. 66), which may have been one of scores cast by Anige for a temple he constructed toward the end of his career. Figures of the Buddha, like another gilt-bronze one of about the same date in the Palace Museum, show how the Indo-Himalayan features turned out in the hands of artists in China.³9 But the court failed to stem the resulting national disaster in the mid-Yuan period so that when flood damage largely abated from 1346, it was by then too late to change the popular impression that the khan and his government were out of favour with Heaven, that they had lost the mandate of Heaven to rule.40 It is tempting to see the court’s efforts to tame nature as trying to hold back the groundswell of historical change, but it is only with hindsight that we may see the mid- to late Yuan period as a compressed process of dynastic decay, a polity breathing its agonal gasps while spiralling out of control. The Yuan government and captains of industry did not see it like this, particularly as some industries, notably the ceramic factories of Longquan and Jingdezhen, were booming. Meantime, scholar-officials like Zhao Yong (1291–1361) were executing paintings in praise of government (see illus. 120), while ambassadors from afar were bringing tribute from the pope (see illus. 122) – still signs of ‘the glory of the age’ and the power of the khans.4¹ Yuan dragons do continue to appear, the latest coiled around the swelling belly of a large polychrome Cizhou wine jar, brought to light from the hold of a sunken Yuan ship at Heze in Shandong province in 2010. 

f our



67 Hua Zuli and Wu Bing, opening section of Ten Daoist Masters (Xuanmen shi zi tu), dated 1326, handscroll, ink and colours on paper. Captioned pictures such as these appeared in both ink-rubbing (from stone engravings) and woodblock-printed forms. The ten masters are Daoist patriarchs of the classical period (Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods) in the centuries leading up to the start of the imperial era in 221 bce. Including Laozi, the founder of Daoism, there are eleven figures illustrated.

cornerstone of Han Chinese statecraft, the civil service examination system, once memorably characterized by Miyazaki Ichisada as ‘China’s examination hell’, seems destined to have served as a political pawn rather than an active agent of meritocracy in Mongol Yuan China.¹ In a Han political model, the system reinstated in 1313 held out the promise of meritocracy for the thousands of students whose families undertook to educate them in the Confucian classical curriculum. The reality of Mongol rule meant that Confucianism was just one of many competing strands of learning and statecraft, while recruitment to government, which favoured non-Chinese, chiefly Mongols and the Central and Inner Asians collectively known as semuren (‘people with coloured eyes’), operated through a system of personal recommendation, a pattern that grew out of steppe culture and the demands of the battlefield.² Given the opportunities for many forms of favour and interest at court and in government, probity became a major theme in the discourse of Chinese-educated men about recruitment and promotion in the arts. But visual representations of and verbal puns on purity and spotlessness were a feature not just of elite artistic production but also in the applied arts, as in the case of Jingdezhen’s qingbai (‘pure and white’) porcelains (see illus. 78). I want to explore how such traditional Chinese themes of morality and learning fared in the competitive world of Yuan visual imagery, notably under pressure to adapt and/or conform to the needs of a pluralistic society in which non-Chinese and women no longer necessarily played subaltern roles. Although, in the term Da Yuan, Khubilai had adopted a Chinese dynastic name from the Confucian classic Book of Change (Yi jing), this did not necessarily privilege Chinese or Confucian political thought – and the examination system that was part of it – above any other models of statecraft being pressed at court. If anything, Confucians were cut down to size by being equated with Buddhists and Daoists, both of which could boast lineages of patriarchs and enjoyed the compendious patronage of the court (illus. 67). Similarly, there was a sufficiently large non-Chinese, Muslim population, both China residents and sojourners from 

The Examination System in the Mongol Yuan Period: What was at stake? Although only men could sit dynastic China’s civil service exams, it was an expensive and laborious undertaking that involved entire families. The system was abolished in north China by the Mongols following the destruction of the Jurchen Jin dynasty. For subjects of the Southern Song, it ended with the fall of the capital Lin’an (Hangzhou) in 1276. The system’s restitution was announced by the Confucian-educated Ayurbarwada khan (Renzong emperor) – the stated aim to improve the quality of officials – in 1313 and came into effect the following year, ending the longest interruption in its history.3 The three-tiered exam sequence began every three years in the eighth month with provincial sittings to award the juren (‘nominee’) degree. Successful juren then went to the capital to sit the ‘metropolitan exam’ (huiyuan) administered by the Board of Rites in the second month of the following year. A small total of just 100 degrees were awarded, 25 for each of the four divisions of Yuan society: Mongols, semuren (Inner and Central Asians), Han people and southerners. The following month these degree-holders sat the ‘palace exam’ (dianshi) administered by the Hanlin Academy, with candidates being placed in order in two groups, Mongols and Central Asians on the right, Han Chinese and southerners on the left. On both sides, candidates were placed into three grades with the top-placed individuals on each side receiving the prestigious ‘presented scholar’ (jinshi) award and a post in the lower sixth rank of the civil bureaucracy. The outright winners were conventionally known as zhuangyuan (optimus), although technically the term was only for the Mongol optimus. While success in the exams did not guarantee preferment in the Yuan civil bureaucracy, it enabled leading Chinese scholarofficials of the 1310s, like Cheng Jufu and his protégé and successor as chief Hanlin Academician, Zhao Mengfu, to discover their own protégés, creating intellectual and political lineages. The examination system was sometimes a political pawn in factional struggles at the Yuan court. In a troubled period beginning in the 1330s, the system had a chequered history, including being suspended by the partisan Mongol chancellor Bayan (d. 1340) between 1335 and 1340. In 1353 an edict sought to correct a bias against southerners, as the khan declared: ‘under Heaven and within the Four Seas, there are none who are not my people . . . [and] that southerners are talented scholars and these must employed.’4 The hiatus was no Yuan aberration since the examination system suffered equally under the native Chinese regime of Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Ming emperor, Hongwu (r. 1368–98), who regarded its graduates as sycophants and suspended it for a decade during the 1370s.

China’s Examination Halls Reopen

68 Wang Zhen (active early 14th century), scene of ‘Winding Bobbins’ from the Nong shu (Book of agriculture) woodblock-printed book. Original preface dated 1303; edition of 1530. The figure recreates the appearance of the complete picture as it came off the woodblock. To be bound into a book, each such double page is folded down the middle and compiled with other pages into a fascicle (or several), anachronistically referred to as a ‘scroll’ (juan). After being wrapped with a soft cover, the loose ends are stitched together to form a spine. Note the print designer’s concern with the layering and texturing of the surfaces of this feminine interior space, which provides the framework for the description of structural forms.

‘western regions’ (xi yu), that a Yuan Muslim calendar was regulated and published by a government department. The early decades of the fourteenth century saw a veritable flowering of scholarly publishing. Confucian and other learned and religious texts were reproduced, often with illustrations, as technology including print technology itself advanced and good practice spread. Illustrated Buddhist sutras were notable print publications of the first two decades.5 In a tolerant, though steeply hierarchical political culture which esteemed technocratic skill, committed Chinese-educated scholar-officials adopted a pragmatic approach to their work. The agronomist Wang Zhen (c. 1271–1368) is a case in point. Wang Zhen was a Yuan clerk and an active and experienced agronomist, as well as a mechanical engineer and a pioneer in woodblock printing technology, that is to say, a technical expert of the type much valued by the Mongols. He is especially known for his Nong shu (Book of agriculture).6 Even if sedentary farming was of low value in pastoralist Mongolia, the Yuan imperium recognized its importance to Yuan China, a coincidence of interest between Mongol and Confucian worldviews. The original Nong shu, which had a preface dated 1303 and was probably first printed in woodblock in 1313, is not extant but a fine woodblock printed edition of 1530 survives (illus. 68). The book incorporated Wang Zhen’s insights


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from learning and his broad experience of best practice in so many regions of China, which meant that it represented a signal advance on the imperial publication, Nong sang jiyao (Essentials of agriculture and sericulture) of 1273, that had resulted from Khubilai’s demand for a book which distilled the essentials of ancient and modern texts. The Nong shu contains over 250 illustrations of tools, vehicles, irrigation devices and weaving machinery, all of which seem to have been based on the author’s own drawings, made during almost two decades of official service as a county magistrate in different regions of China. In the art world, this national approach is seen in the publication of pu (manuals) by artists of the fourteenth century, including the northern Chinese scholar-official and bamboo painter Li Kan’s (1254–1320) Zhu pu (Manual of bamboo; prefaces dated 1307 and 1319), which collectively helped to popularize bamboo, plum blossom and other motifs in the wider visual culture.7 Wang Zhen was also something of a pioneer in the way that he printed his books, starting with a county gazetteer in 1299, followed by the Nong shu itself. Appended at the end is an essay entitled ‘Ways to make moveable characters to print books’ (‘Zao huozi yin shu fa’), which discussed the use of different media for moveable type including metal, ceramic and wood. The blocks from which the Nong shu was printed were compiled using wooden type from Wang Zhen’s personal collection of hundreds of thousands of carved character blocks (called huozi in Chinese, ‘live words’). He even invented a giant wheel mounted with moveable type characters so that a printer could efficiently work seated beside the rotatable wheels. Moveable type was occasionally used in Yuan China, for example in the printing of bills of paper money where a combination of impressed red seals and serial numbers (in moveable type) acted to counter forgery (illus. 69). From 1275 currency printers ditched wood blocks for bronze blocks, but retained this system (illus. 70).8 However, in printed book publishing, this moveable type method of making up pages was nowhere near as common as the carving of complete woodblocks and it developed no cultural momentum. The appearance of a category of illustrated texts known as pinghua (or , ‘plain tales’) around 1320 indicates that by this time publishers were already marketing a more popular form of woodblock-printed book. Images from these books gained even more currency when they were used as source material by the makers of early blue-and-white porcelains at Jingdezhen from the 1340s on. This connection was established when the source of a scene on a widely exhibited blueand-white wine jar was identified in a pinghua illustration of ‘Guiguzi Descending the Mountain’ in a carriage drawn by two tigers dating to 1321–3.9 Many other scenes on late Yuan Jingdezhen and Longquan wares await identification with their print sources (see illus. 78 and 158). 

China’s Examination Halls Reopen

For long periods of the Mongol regime in China the exam system was suspended or, when it did run, it did so in a form that would have been scarcely imaginable in Song or Tang China, giving a limited number of awards in quotas to the four ethnic groups of Yuan society: Mongols, Central and Inner Asians, the ‘Han people’ of north China (not necessarily ethnic Han) and southerners. This chapter is not about the specifics of the Yuan system per se, important as it was, for instance, that it adopted a new school of commentary based on the neo-Confucian philosophy of the Southern Song scholar Zhu Xi (1130–1200), the so-called School of Principle (Lixue). The questions here revolve around the visuality of a system the largely symbolic restitution of which was announced by Ayurbarwada khan (emperor Renzong) in 1313, shortly after his ascent to the throne, ostensibly as part of a major policy shift towards (or, from a Chinese perspective, back towards) the Han model. Some recently excavated objects point toward significant changes in social aspirations in light of these policy shifts and provide a wider context for understanding how the examination system was perceived over the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. There really were dramatic changes to social expectations, especially for former Song subjects who, just by being ‘southerners’, were placed at the bottom of the Yuan social scale. Evidence from archaeological discoveries in the last few decades has certainly reconfirmed the prestige attaching to success in the Song civil service examinations and the extent to which it dominated the hopes and aspirations of so many families. Related stories and images appear on all kinds of luxury possessions, from mirrors presumably used by the female relatives of would-be candidates to drinking vessels in silver and gold. The motifs might contain conventional auspicious puns such as on the word gui (cassia), a homophone for gui (ennobled). ¹0 A silver-gilt cup and saucer, with an inscription of the model rhyme-poem, ‘Treading on Grass Melody’ (‘Tasha xing’) – about a young examinee – and story scenes illustrating it, was unearthed in a Southern Song hoard known as the Gu County cache (Shaowu Museum, Fujian Province; illus. 71). The exterior of the cup is decorated with individual scenes which read, when the cup is turned, similarly to a book-like format, such as is also employed in reading a handscroll. Inside is engraved the text of ‘Treading on Grass Melody’, which is most revealing about the Song fetishization of the civil service examination system. It begins: His feet climb the cloud ladder, his hands reach up to the immortal cassia tree; His name is recorded on the list of successful candidates on the plaque mounted high. 

70 Bronze block for printing paper currency, ‘Zhiyuan tongxing baochao’ (Zhiyuan currency value bill) worth ‘two guan’ (strings of cash), Yuan, Zhiyuan reign, 1264–94. The recesses to the left and right just above halfway, below the Phagspa script inscriptions, were spaces where serial numbers against fraud were inserted, either by placing moveable type in the recess, or else by manuscript on the bill after printing. Seals were also impressed on the paper before printing.

opposite: 69 Paper currency, ‘Zhiyuan tongxing baochao’ (Zhiyuan currency value bill) worth ‘two guan’ (strings of cash), Yuan, Zhiyuan reign, 1264–94. Details of the value are given in the upper half: a picture of the two strings of cash over a large seal, flanked by Phagspa inscriptions and serial numbers (to the left, the ‘character number’ is gong ). Below are details of the issuing authority, the Chancellery (Shangshusheng), over another large seal. Phoenixes swirl around inside the hefty framing panel.

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Ahead of his horse the news is spread: the optimus is coming. A golden saddle and jade crop complete his travelling accoutrements. The feast over he returns, venturing where he pleases in the flowered city. In this moment his life’s ambition is clear. In an elegant hand he pens a report post-haste to his family at the Phoenix Tower, And then sets out in return this fine and stylish son.¹¹ The scenes on the cup illustrate the verses quite literally, beginning with mounting the cloud ladder and reaching for the cassia branch. This is followed by the scene of the posting of the exam results high up on a board. Then the news spreads and he rides through the streets to great acclaim. Finally, he writes home; and his family are depicted at the Phoenix Tower mansion.¹² This story line was also worked into the celebrated early Yuan drama, Xixiang ji (The story of the western wing). Given its limited recruitment and racial profiling, the Yuan exam system, when it ran, was no ordinary way for any Yuan subject to join or rise high in the civil bureaucracy. The chief beneficiaries of the restitution of the system appear to have been its leading advocates at court, Chinese Hanlin academicians, as noted, but there are some indications that the reform may also have widened the appeal of a bureaucratic career. Elite families who during the hiatus had founded academies discovered that their own sons were well positioned to compete in the reformed national examinations.¹³ From the 1310s on, how the rest of educated society went about finding official employment may be gleaned from publications like the woodblock-printed encyclopaedia Shilin guangji. The last of its four sections is devoted entirely to informing the reader about the Mongol system and structure of government: its ranks and departments; salaries

71 Silver-gilt cup and saucer with story scenes illustrating an engraved text, ‘Tasha xing’ (Treading on Grass Melody), Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279). Unearthed at Shaowu, Gu county.


China’s Examination Halls Reopen

72 Carved red lacquer dish with peony design, with an incised inscription: ‘Made by Yang Mao’ (Yang Mao zao), Yuan dynasty (1271–1368).

and emoluments; law and order; standing orders; goods and valuables; mathematics; tea; and wine.¹4 Elsewhere there is plenty of information about Mongol learning, culture and language, including Chinese transliterations of hundreds of Mongol words. The figures in the pictures are all Mongols – firing bows standing and mounted, kicking footballs, playing board games, receiving guests and so on. In the introduction to the section on Mongol writing, which features a standard list of Chinese surnames in Mongol written in Phagspa script (see illus. 107), the author even offers a tip to the reader: ‘memorizing this section is a short cut to becoming an official’, a topic to which we will return later.¹5 In Yuan visual culture, the exam system is not a major theme, compared to inscriptions about achieving or enjoying wealth and status. Makers’ marks are more widely seen in the Yuan than before, which may be attributed in part to the value placed on artisanal skill by the Mongols, as is seen in familial inscriptions on Cizhou painted wares (various family workshops; see chapter Three, note 13), Ge ware ceramics (the Zhang family; see illus. 151, 152), and on lacquer wares. Zhang Cheng and Yang Mao (both active Yuan, 1271–1368) were particularly well known as lacquer makers and no doubt sought-after brand names and markers of status (illus. 72).¹6 It is notable that in the Shilin guangji section transliterating Mongol terms into Chinese, extensive coverage is provided of occupations and trades, as well as of family relationships. After the emperor and high officials, Buddhist monks and Daoists (no Confucians are listed), attention turns to all kinds of artisans including silk artisans; fletchers and bowyers; stringers; cobblers; joiners; silversmiths; comb and needle-makers; dyers; powder and cosmetic makers; farriers; tanners. Then follow terms for Central Asian peoples, the Han, the Manzi (‘southern barbarians’), doctors and farmers, before finishing up with all the family relationships.¹7 The implication is that involvement in trades (rather than just 

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literary careers), the social mingling of an ethnically diverse society, intermarriage and miscegenation were not uncommon. So, when we do encounter the theme of the five sons passing the exams, for instance in a set of stone bricks unearthed in Shexian, Anhui province, dated 1334, many of the figures wear Mongol official attire, and we are not at all reassured this topic was auspicious for Chinese alone (illus. 73). Literary images started to appear on mass-produced luxury goods in the mid-fourteenth century, such as scenes from drama that originated in printed books and ephemera. Concurrently, a habit formed of incorporating textual inscriptions into scenes, as the ones on a rare Longquan example (see illus. 157), but other text inscriptions are stand-alone, generic, aspirational messages about health, wealth and status. A Longquan ware wine jar and cover, discovered in Malaysian waters in the Turiang wreck, a ship carrying mainly Chinese wares, features such a textual motif (illus. 74, 75). The inscription reads: ‘May your halls be full of gold and jade; may you have long life and ennoblement.’ The inscription is impressed, 

73 Stone carved with a scene of exam graduates being feted, dated 1334; from a set of stone carvings unearthed at Shexian, Anhui province.

China’s Examination Halls Reopen

giving it the slightly workaday quality of mass-produced wares, and is offset by the elegant flower head which provides a visual frame for the legend. Success in the exams achieved through classical learning is no specific part of this route to ennoblement, notwithstanding the jar’s southern manufacture and export from China. The fact that the vessel was for wine speaks both for how status was achieved and displayed in the culture of Cathay or Da Yuan (rather than China) in the mid-fourteenth century, at least before the 1371 Ming ban on all private overseas trade. All these pieces of visual evidence can tell us about social aspirations and even how these might be achieved, but they are also important evidence of the wider convergence and integration of text and image in visual culture. Previously this was regarded as the purview and innovation of early Yuan scholar art and linked with transitional Song–Yuan artists like Qian Xuan, whose White Lotus was discussed in chapter Two (illus. 45). Under the early Yuan, a mood of loss and condolence not specific to the curtailment of the exam system as a channel of social mobility but about Southern Song culture in general is palpable in the more popular forms of southern literary culture. An artist whose work embodies this is Qian Xuan, a cantankerous scholar who made his living as a painter by

74, 75 Green-glazed jar and cover. Longquan ware, Yuan or early Ming, mid–late 14th century. Recovered from the wreck Turiang, close to the coast of Malaysia, in 1988. The jar is impressed with a floral design containing an inscription (below): ‘May your halls be full of gold and jade; may you have long life and ennoblement’; the character in the middle may be a maker’s mark.


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tapping into that popular layer of culture but overlaid with an antiquarian approach. Qian Xuan seems to have painted mainly handscrolls and was one of the first to place calligraphic inscriptions of his poetry side by side to the left of his paintings.¹8 One of a group of paintings not illustrating narratives but about selfrustication is Dwelling in the Hills (illus. 76; Palace Museum, Beijing), painted in an archaistic blue-and-green palette and combining several types of ‘distance’ perspective: an uninterrupted clear vista across water towards distant low hills; high mountains towering above; and contrastive depth seen past near-ground trees.¹9 The calligraphic inscription and seals which follow appear to the left in an adjunct position but in the picture surface. In the poem, Qian Xuan is by turns an apologist for his ‘reclusive’ behaviour, then a self-hater who does not get on with others and, finally, a man who claims to enjoy the fellowship of conversation only with ‘the old fellow of these parts’. Yet there is a pictorial narrative to construct in light of the poem. In the opening passage of the painting, the spits and headlands all point toward the solitary skiff out on the water, where we may imagine the artist ‘enjoying peace and quiet’, at one with his environment.


76 Qian Xuan (c. 1239– 1299), detail from Dwelling in the Hills, handscroll, ink and colours on paper.

China’s Examination Halls Reopen

Although the poem says that ‘from dawn to dusk the wicket gate is closed’, yet in the painting it is open. A grandee – the ‘roc’ and ‘orchid’ in the poem – is riding away, presumably disappointed not to have found the artist, the ‘quail’ and ‘mugwort’: Quail and roc: each goes its own way; Orchid and mugwort do not grow from the same root. The rider approaches the fine pines, which now stand for his kind, in ironic contrast with the leafless stumpy trees above the artist’s mountain compound. Elsewhere in the poem, Qian Xuan explains his behaviour: Me and others? They mostly hate me. I have not ‘sought the way’ or esteemed myself. Qian Xuan was already quite old by the time the Song fell and living comfortably off his painting, even if, as the inscription on White Lotus tells us, he was being widely faked. Any form of government service must have seemed anathema. His attitude to self-important people of ambition who have ‘sought the way’ is prickly and dismissive, but this is also a dissenting view on Confucian learning as a normative channel to success and status through public service. It is not without irony that Qian Xuan notes how his ‘fine discourse’ will be with the local rustic. Beyond this kind of lyric mode, Qian Xuan’s oeuvre features nostalgic illustrations of much-loved tales from the popular Chinese literary repertoire such as Wang Xizhi Watching Geese and the early landscape poet Tao Qian’s Returning Home (both in the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Although such paintings of popular stories could have functioned as talking points on national events – Returning Home is about an official who quits court to retire to the country, for instance – it is questionable how dissenting the topic really was, given that just before the restitution of the exam system, early in Renzong’s reign, it was painted in an ink-outline version by the senior court artist He Cheng (1223–1314?; illus. 77). There are difficulties to iron out vis-à-vis Qian Xuan’s oeuvre. Its unevenness is explained partly by a daily alcohol intake that by 1289 gave him delirium tremens (noted by Zhao Mengfu, a fellow townsman and probably an early pupil), probably necessitating his use of amanuenses, and partly by the enterprise of imitators.²0 Qian Xuan is a complex figure and his work needs a careful reassessment. Nonetheless, the correspondence between his work and the ‘Treading on Grass Melody’ cup suggests that Qian was not lying: his natural friends were not members of the highly cultivated circles which produced literati paintings, nor even the Song 

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yimin, many of whom chose to make a living working in the Confucian school system in Jiangnan. That these popular narratives began to feature more prominently on the surfaces of Yuan luxury objects highlights a trend set by Cizhou potters in the north (see illus. 64) and to a lesser extent Jizhou potters in the south. Many stories were blatantly topical in the Yuan context, such as Zhaojun Leaves China, about a Han princess given in marriage to a nomad chieftain as part of a peace treaty. The cultural reception of the examination system got its own dramatic overhaul in the Yuan, too. Sometime around 1300, a Chinese minor official from the city of Yangzhou was serving as a county bureaucrat in Shaanxi. After coming under investigation from the censorate, he quit officialdom and turned to writing dramas. So began the literary career of Wang Shifu (1260–1316), writer of one of China’s most celebrated plays, Xixiang ji (The Story of the western wing), a classic of the ‘scholar meets beauty’ (caizi jiaren) genre. The plot line is similar to that of the ‘Treading on Grass Melody’ tale, only it is more romantic and racy. Scenes illustrating the story quickly found their way into print, although no Yuan examples survive, and these became part of the repertoire of drama scenes painted onto the new blue-and-white porcelains from Jingdezhen in Jiangxi in the late Yuan period, as we will see below. A look at the conception and reception of this work is a starting point for understanding the value of classical Confucian learning and seeing related patterns in the formation and dissemination of Yuan culture. The Xixiang ji is another example, this time in literature, of an affinity that early Yuan scholars had with the culture of the Tang dynasty. The story is set in 

77 He Cheng (1223–1314?), detail from Returning Home, handscroll, ink on paper. Colophon by Zhao Mengfu dated 1315.

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78 Blue-and-white porcelain ‘prunus vase’, meiping, painted with a scene from Xixiang ji (The Story of the western wing), Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province. Yuan, mid-14th century.

the Zhenyuan reign (785–805) of that dynasty, the date of the chuanqi short story by the poet Yuan Zhen (779–831), on which Xixiang ji is based. Wang Shifu took a trenchant Tang narrative with a raw end and transformed it into a romance, in which the star-crossed lovers overcome many obstacles to be united in marriage. In Xixiang ji, a young and poor but talented scholar, Student Zhang, falls in love with a beauty, Yingying or Oriole. Oriole has a scheming maid, Hongniang – her name means ‘matchmaker’ in modern Chinese – who eventually arranges the assignation at which the couple consummate their love. When Oriole’s widowed mother finds out she grills Hongniang, who reveals all. This dramatic scene is found on a blue-and-white prunus vase in the Victoria and Albert Museum (illus. 78), where it stands for the whole drama. (It shares this function and also its ‘short handscroll’ format with illustrations conventionally placed across the top of a page illustrating the text below in pinghua woodblock-printed books.) Hearing of Oriole’s beauty a notorious bandit plans to kidnap and ravish her. When Oriole’s mother sends out a plea for help, Student Zhang offers to write to his friend the White Horse General, who duly intervenes. Widow Zheng now agrees to let Zhang marry her daughter but only so long as he passes the civil service exams in the capital. This he later does, as zhuangyuan, but she reneges when Oriole’s cousin, who has his own designs, claims that Zhang has married the daughter of a high official. The Yuan version differs from that in Yuan Zhen’s original in having a happy ending. No longer a student but now a mounted official, Zhang returns from the capital, exposes the evil cousin’s plot and is finally united with Oriole. The story weaves together important cultural tropes, including the scholar and beauty romance, but also the popular ideal of the unconnected talent managing to be placed optimus in the civil service examinations, thus guaranteeing his family wealth, honour and scholar-official status. Whether Wang Shifu wrote 

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the play before or following the 1313 restitution is not clear, but he was clearly tapping into expectations about its potential. The romance challenges one aspect of tradition but reinforces another. The play’s celebration of a romantic attachment as a reason for marriage must have set it apart from social reality in which matriarchs and patriarchs often sought to enhance familial status out of such connections. The Xixiang ji was reduced, on the jar in the Victoria and Albert Museum, to one iconic scene featuring the contretemps between matriarch and scheming maid, evidence of the cultural resonance of such scenes. It is certainly dramatic – this is the moment when the widow must accept the fait accompli, and try to make the best of it – but there is also an element of humour and realism in the wagging finger and lashing tongue directed at the maid, who is tearful at her dressing down but has shown herself to be spirited, resourceful and devoted. A recently discovered tomb of 1309 provides the opportunity, at this point, to explore an example of regional culture in north China on the eve of the restitution of the examination system. This mural-painted tomb was uncovered at Hongyucun in Xing county in Shanxi province in north China in 2008 (see illus. 79–83). Although the tomb chamber had been looted of its contents, investigators were able to establish that the occupants were a Chinese couple of local gentry or official class.²¹ They are depicted in a domestic setting descriptive of their lifestyle, Confucian values and Buddhist faith. The murals and structure provide evidence of the funerary plan designed and executed on behalf of this aspirational, provincial family by an unknown art atelier working in a vernacular mode. The design of the tomb provides fascinating clues to taste and fashion in the appointment of interiors in north China in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. It suggests how the genres of didactic and genre figures, jiehua, horses and flower-and-bird painting enjoyed wide currency across social and ethnic divides, as did particular visual characteristics such as geometric effects (symmetry, counterbalance), illusionism (trompe l’oeil effects) and referencing to past models and the contemporary status quo. The lower part of the domed ceiling and the octagonal walled crypt are all painted. On the west wall, opposite the passage entrance, is a scene depicting the deceased couple seated in front of a family altar and screen, him to the right (north), her to the left (south) as they look out (illus. 79). He wears a straw-coloured wicker hat, an official’s head ware called a tengmao, the hat worn by most of the contemporary figures illustrated in Shilin guangji. The panels on each side between this central scene and the entrance are painted with paired images. Either side of the deceased couple are scenes depicting their three sons, dressed as officials (south, facing their father), and a shaven-headed Buddhist monk (north, facing the 

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79 Deceased couple flanked by paintings of their sons and a Buddhist monk, mural, west wall, tomb at Hongyucun, Xing county, Shanxi. Yuan tomb dated 1309. The male occupant to the north looks at the picture of his sons in their official dress, while the female occupant regards the shaven-headed Buddhist monk and acolyte.

mother). Outside these are two further mural panels painted with garden scenes: for him, a fancy rock and flowering peony; for her, a pond scene featuring flowering lotus and rushes (illus. 80, 81). Opposite, on either side of the entrance, are painted latticed and openwork wooden doors embellished with gilt fittings. Next to the doors on each side is a painting of a frisky powerful horse, groomed and elaborately tacked up, and tied in readiness to a central pole. The composition is familiar from Tang painting; what is distinctly Yuan is the lifelike ‘enlargement’ of the animals to fill the picture frame, the foreshortening of the pillars behind and the pairing of the two pictures. The animal on the left (north), a bay with four white socks and a knotted tail, is walking to the left and turning his head right back towards the entrance (illus. 82). The horse to the right, a dun with a loose tail and shaggy mane, prances off to the right, turning his head to the left back towards the entrance. The main north and south panels are similarly painted with paired, quasisymmetrical compositions, with scenes of attendants busying themselves at a table on a high garden terrace. To the south, a strong black, probably lacquered, waisted table, laden with lotus-leaf-lidded wine jars (probably Cizhou ware), stands in front of a white balustrade (illus. 83). To the north, a delicate pale wooden table 

80, 81 Left: pond scene featuring lotuses and bullrushes, southwest wall (beside the painting of the female occupant); right: peony and rock scene, northwest wall (beside the painting of the male occupant), tomb at Hongyucun, Xing county, Shanxi. 82 Caparisoned horse, mural, east wall (north side of entrance), tomb at Hongyucun, Xing county, Shanxi. To the left is a filial piety scene and to the right is a painted latticed door.

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83 Attendants on a terrace flanked by painted scrolls of filial piety scenes, mural, south wall, tomb at Hongyucun, Xing county, Shanxi. The filial piety scene on the left is ‘Meng Zong Weeps until the Bamboo Sprouts’: Meng Zong of the Three Kingdoms period went to collect bamboo from the forest in winter for his widowed mother and Heaven was moved to make it sprout for him. On the right is ‘Cai Shun Dividing [Red and Black Mulberries] into Containers’, a Han story about a filial act for a hungry widowed mother, which was rewarded by robbers.

(perhaps of huanghuali or yellow pearwood), with straight legs and stretchers, is laid with smaller vessels and accoutrements in front of a black balustrade. Between each of these main mural panels around the tomb are narrower panels painted as hanging scrolls of filial piety scenes. With their decorative M-shaped tassels hanging from the top stave and black top and bottom panels, these scrolls resemble Jin woodblock-printed scrolls, one of which features the four beauties of ancient China (see illus. 87). These are also the standard form of efficacious paintings being displayed to the eye for beneficial effects in the court dietary manual Yinshan zhengyao of 1330 (see illus. 110). ²² The interest in creating a completely illusory domestic space – thus far, we have seen large window or door frames through which extensive outdoor precincts are pictured – is carried on above the vertical walls. The lower part of the ceiling vault comprises a series of illusory architectural tiers. The tier immediately above the painted scenes is painted with lozenge-shaped faux-bois beam panels, centred above the main paintings and set within brackets decorated with cloud or ruyi shapes (see top of illus. 83). (This is a design also seen on printed book pages, where it runs vertically down the fold which was the centre of each block-printed double page.) Above this is a narrow tier painted in black, white and grey with brick cogging, a representation of actual toothed brickwork seen in earlier tombs. Above this, supported by the unseen walls or pillars behind the ‘hanging scrolls’, 

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are painted triple-bracketed roof supports. Above this is a painted tier of end poles sticking out. From the centre of this tomb, the whole impression must have been of standing in a large vault-ceilinged hall, some of the walls of which were hung with ‘paintings’ of auspicious and/or dutiful images and descendants still living. Between these are large framed windows or doorways giving onto exterior spaces – stable yards, high terraces and elegant gardens. Wealth, status and values are all virtually present, conjured by painters and transmuted from this world into the next for the benefit of the deceased. Paintings in China are almost never conceived of as though they were illusionistic picture windows set into walls. That is the traditional demesne of early modern European art. Yet this is precisely what we have here in Mongol north China in 1309. Indeed, the clearly vernacular quality of the design and painting in this tomb point to the ubiquity of these visual characteristics and enable us to regard it as a microcosm of Yuan visual culture, replete with human aspiration and the visual means for representing it. There are no direct references to the examination system, as we would suppose given its suspension, but there is plenty to show that this provincial family is positively engaged in civic, religious and official life in Yuan China and that it is ready to meet any development, such as the restitution of the civil service examination system. As noted, recruitment to and promotion within the Yuan civil bureaucracy operated chiefly through a system of recommendation, even after the 1313 restitution since the number of degrees awarded remained small and did not guarantee preferment. (Of course, the evidence on this point in general has been skewed by later historians.) In 1314, as chief Hanlin academician, Cheng Jufu brought in on his own recommendation the brilliant Jie Xisi (1274–1344), a man to whom he was related by marriage.²³ For Cheng Jufu, a former Song official who had defected early to the Mongol government, issues of loyalty never went away. He had been a loyal servant to Khubilai, one who reproved his allegiance by composing such texts as the ‘Stele of Yuan Shizu’s Pacification of Yunnan’ (Yuan Shizu ping Yunnan bei).²4 Cheng Jufu had made a career out of spotting talents. Recruitment through an imperial appointee such as him was generally reserved for the cream of southern scholar society, for men destined to be cultural leaders like Zhao Mengfu, in 1285, and Jie Xisi. Poetic exchanges were common means of communication, and on occasion Cheng Jufu also inscribed poems as colophons to scroll paintings, which would have been on view at social gatherings. A rare extant example is the colophon to the painting of The Parting of Li Ling and Su Wu attributed to Zhou Wenju (active tenth century) in the National Palace Museum, Taipei. Dealing with the painful choices for Chinese about serving or not serving a foreign ruler, it speaks to the Yuan present.²5 

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As the leading calligrapher-connoisseur of early Yuan China, Zhao Mengfu had more opportunity than anyone to network by means of the arts. Dozens of colophons in handscrolls survive in addition to his own works of calligraphy and painting. He served for the decade from 1300 to 1310 as the tsar of the Confucian education system in his native south, in Jiangnan and Zhejiang, a period in which he consolidated his position as China’s leading scholar-artist. A highly accomplished all-rounder, through research and assiduous choices of stylistic model and script type in calligraphy, he moulded his image as a southern Chinese scholar-official. In his more intimate, peer-oriented mode, he formally evoked the culture of the late Northern Song literati, as in his Small Portrait of Su Shi which prefaced a transcription of Su Shi’s famous ‘Red Cliff Odes’ (National Palace Museum, Taipei). He was also a celebrity calligrapher and widely known beyond the school system through his public calligraphy – scores of inscriptions done for stele to official and public buildings including temples, shrines and schools, as well as tombs – and gradually through the adoption of his writing style, known as Zhaoti ( , ‘Zhao form’), as the standard font in woodblock printing. Judging by mid- and later Yuan styles of handwriting, Zhao’s calligraphy was studied by more students than any other and most students aspiring to pass the exams in the 1310s would have been writing in his style. The restitution of the examination system by Ayurbarwada, even in its pared down and sectarian form, was recognition of decades representing the virtues of Han-style government at court and in the education system on the part of Cheng Jufu, Zhao Mengfu and their peers. Zhao’s Watering Horses in an Autumn Suburb (illus. 84), executed to celebrate Ayurbarwada’s ascent to the throne and his own recall to court, reworks the theme of the earlier Bathing Horses (see illus. 20), this time depicting a single groom leading the fine horses of the imperial stable to slake their thirst. The empire’s future talents buck and gallop in the field beyond. In the 1310s, under Cheng Jufu and then Zhao Mengfu’s leadership, the Hanlin Academy, which administered the highest level of the new exams, continued to be the destination for some of the brightest recruits to the Yuan bureaucracy.

Success in the Yuan, whether in the examination system or otherwise, was predicated on family support. The widowed mother of the young Zhao Mengfu was said to be a fearsome taskmistress. Likewise, from a male perspective, the marriage of sisters and daughters played a role in forming strategic alliances with other families. Even so, the idea of the devoted couple was widely popular in Yuan visual culture, represented commonly by paired rails or Mandarin ducks, which take only one mate. Beyond signifying romantic fidelity, the subject also had moral or 

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didactic undertones in relation to familial and, by extension, ‘national’ expectations about duty and loyalty. Sometimes other species of paired birds were depicted, overlaying the romantic symbolism with other aspirations, as in an example from the Biling School of Changzhou in south China, which specialized in large, highquality bird-and-flower paintings for display (illus. 85). It is worth remarking that these scenes of paired birds commonly have a narrative element whereby the birds are reacting to something going on in the pond nearby, causing them to reveal characteristics of gender, role and values. Hugely popular pond scenes were also a common motif in the jade finials worn on the top of Yuan official hats (illus. 86, see also illus. 109). Seen against the long run of China’s art history, women of the Yuan art world do stand out – not likely because they were any more active or forceful than women of other eras but perhaps because of their relatively higher status and visibility under Mongol rule. We have observed the prominence of women like Khubilai’s empress Chabi in Yuan political life, and that given to certain female characters in the arts, like Wang Zhaojun, Dou E and others. Similarly, literary accomplishments, at least in visual culture, were not monopolized by southern Chinese men, as we know from the cases of Sengge Ragi and Guan Daosheng. Celebration of women’s scholarly accomplishments is not a notable strength of China’s history, where rather demure behaviour and the cultivation of feminine virtues was emphasized through texts like the Women’s Classic of Filial Piety (Nü 

84 Zhao Mengfu (1254–1322), Watering Horses in an Autumn Suburb, dated 1312, handscroll, ink and colours on silk. The painting is followed by a colophon by Ke Jiusi in his capacity as a doctor of letters of the Kuizhangge Academy.

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xiaojing), which also occasionally were the subjects of paintings. The fine Buddhist temple mural of the bodhisattva of wisdom, Wenshu (see illus. 27), depicts the androgynous deity seated and writing at a desk, but this is not a purely feminine figure. A remarkable woodblock-printed hanging scroll produced under the Jin dynasty in north China, however, highlights the literary arts as an accomplishment of the exemplary woman. The scroll in question, known for short as the Four Beauties, is in the collection of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (illus. 87). Several of the great beauties of ancient China’s history, who individually had helped bring down kingdoms, bear attributes. Consort Ban (c. 48–c. 6 bce) of the Former Han holds a fan painted with bamboo. One, the Han court lady Wang Zhaojun (mid-first century bce), is holding a brush and paper in a pose not dissimilar to that of the court instructress from the Admonitions of the Court Instructress scroll attributed to Gu Kaizhi in the British Museum. The picture is evidence, at least in mixed Han–foreign cultures in north China, that a high degree of learning could be expected of an exemplary female figure who would marry a member of the nomad nobility. Sengge Ragi was not an artist herself, so far as we know, although she was a collector of Chinese art and a patron to three southern scholars at court: Wang Zhenpeng, Feng Zizhen and Zhao Yan. The likenesses of Yuan empresses were captured alongside their husbands but no portrait of the princess survives unless one is hidden in one of the paintings done for her by Wang Zhenpeng, such as 

the one traditionally identified as Mahaprajapati Nursing the Infant Buddha (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), a tour de force of Buddhist-style tight drapery lineament, or in a painting subject often ascribed to Wang Zhenpeng like Raising the Bowl (Jiebo tu), which features the mother of demons, Hariti.²6 Numerous scrolls she owned have colophons written at her command by Feng Zizhen and Zhao Yan.²7 Residing in the capital, this group seems to have been part of an international set, which included Chan/Zen Buddhist monks like Zhongfeng Mingben (1263–1323) and his Japanese pupil Muin Genkai (1283?–1358?).²8 One particular painting done for the princess by Wang Zhenpeng deals squarely with the issue, or rather the non-issue, of a non-Chinese woman and her competence in Chinese high-brow culture. Boya Playing the Qin (illus. 88) illustrates the story of a zither player in antiquity, Boya, who believed that the only fellow who truly understood his playing was a woodcutter. After the latter died, Boya smashed his instrument and never played again. The painting is executed in exquisite Chinese inkoutline technique, the figures highly realistic despite the monochrome. The whole approach is highly sensual, evoking an alchemy of sight, sound, smell and touch. Groundbreaking in its phenomenological development of realism, the painting must also have challenged other Chinese artists not to underestimate the potential of new, even foreign audiences beyond traditional or idealized ones. As an artist and a literary talent Guan Daosheng remains an enigma. Due to forgery and imitation, and perhaps also the thorny problem of what constituted a gendered female brush mode, it is very hard to identify consistent individual characteristics even among the plausible works carrying attributions to her. As is well known, her calligraphy was collected along with her husband’s and son’s for the Imperial Library at the command of Ayurbarwada khan, who wished to commemorate the art of this model family. As a result, scrolls combining works by members of the Zhao–Guan family are a notable type in Chinese art history, although 

85 Anon. (Biling School painter, Yuan, 1271–1368; formerly attributed to Gu Deqian [10th century]), Water-birds in a Lotus Pond, one of a pair of hanging scrolls, ink and colours on silk.

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86 Jade finial for an official hat, carved with a pond scene, Yuan dynasty, 1271–1368.

it is impossible to be sure they were assembled as such in the early fourteenth century, let alone whether they were in the imperial collection. A handscroll containing bamboo paintings by Zhao Mengfu, dated to 1321, by her and by Zhao Yong is in the Palace Museum, Beijing. ²9 Further vexing the question of what extant example of art might be hers is the fact that one well-known letter from her to a female relative is, to the connoisseurly eye, particularly attention-grabbing for its classically trained, fluid yet concentrated brushwork. There is small wonder, because this piece, referred to as Qiushen tie (Depth of autumn manuscript) from the words qiushen in the text, was on stylistic grounds alone clearly penned on her behalf by her husband (illus. 89). An error confirms this: the letter begins with the conventional opening, ‘Daosheng bows and sends her respects’, but by the time Zhao Mengfu came to close the letter with the same conventional salutation, he evidently forgot he was writing on his wife’s behalf and signed ‘Mengfu . . .’, before realizing the error and correcting the characters to read Daosheng. By contrast, a more likely candidate for a letter actually by her own hand is in a collection of letters, entitled Album of Calligraphy by Members of the Zhao-Guan Family, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei. Guan’s letter addressed to her and her husband’s Buddhist teacher, Zhongfeng Mingben, is executed in small standard script in a delicate, slightly florid style (illus. 90).

The issue of the Chinese examination system in the Yuan was related to broader, existential questions raised about the value of the Chinese past in a Yuan present, a topic that calls for further research. We finish this chapter with two examples. When Guan Daosheng became seriously ill, Zhao Mengfu retired from the court, but she died on the way back home in 1319 and he died a few years later in 1322. In those years, Zhao Mengfu had a chance to reflect back on his life in art in a colophon he wrote in 1320 to a figure painting done almost two decades earlier entitled Red-robed Western Monk in Liaoning (illus. 91). Although it is often stated that Zhao Mengfu had long sought to imbue his paintings with a classical 

88 Wang Zhenpeng (active c. 1280–1329), Boya Playing the Qin, handscroll, ink on silk. A colophon by Feng Zizhen follows the painting.

87 Four Beauties, carved and printed by the Ji family of Pingyang (modern Linfen), Shanxi. Jin dynasty (1115–1234), woodblock print mounted as a hanging scroll. The title inscription reads: ‘the fragrant faces of the demure beauties of successive dynasties who toppled kingdoms’. The name of each woman is given in a small cartouche beside her (right to left): Green Pearl, Wang Zhaojun, Zhao Feiyan and Consort Ban. In contrast with the paired print, which shows masculine virtues of resolve and integrity (a general on campaign) below large, powerful calligraphy, these women are pictured in a feminized, domestic space within a hanging scroll with decorative borders.

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89 Signature of Guan Daosheng (calligraphy by Zhao Mengfu), Qiushen tie (Depth of autumn manuscript), letter to an aunt mounted as an album leaf, ink on paper. The letter opens (top right) and closes (bottom left) with the conventional salutation, ‘Daosheng sends her respects’ . When starting the letter Zhao Mengfu correctly wrote his wife’s name, Daosheng. However, in closing, it was only after having written most of his own name that he remembered he was impersonating her: Meng  and the left half of fu  is visible under the botched and corrected Daosheng .

quality of gu yi, a celebrated concept sometimes translated ‘spirit of antiquity’, in fact, this is its earliest appearance in an extant colophon. It is sometimes thought that this term is about imitating the past and it is true that it becomes such a powerful artistic conceit that in later literati painting thousands of works would be created in this mode, paintings that may pay only lip service to antiquity. I would posit that it is fundamentally about the Yuan present.³0 Although there are formal references to old master pictures in the painting, the 1320 colophon proposes that encounters with eminent monks and lamas from Inner and South Asia in Dadu provided the human experience underpinning the portrait. The painting may even be a covert portrait of the Sakya lama Danba, disgraced by Sangha, his erstwhile protégé.³¹ Zhao Mengfu was selected to transcribe the text for the stele when Danba was posthumously rehabilitated in 1316, suggesting that he knew him, but Zhao would also have been familiar with portraits of such figures, which were not uncommon in Tibetan painting. A Tibetan painting of arhats illustrates the mode (illus. 92).³² When one looks at the ways Zhao Mengfu reprised China’s oldmaster art in his practice it would seem that the urge to convey gu yi, ‘the spirit of antiquity’, was not an end in itself but a means to enrich his art to serve complex goals in the Yuan present, to harness the agency of antiquity though always with an eye to posterity. The language of Yuan connoisseurship easily took on a disinterested tenor, lending itself to a timeless Chinese aesthetics, but another example of the use of the Chinese past in the Yuan present reminds us of the need for contextualization. This is Chen Jizhi’s long handscroll Treaty at Bian Bridge (Bianqiao huimeng tu) of the same year, 1320, in the Palace Museum, Beijing (illus. 93), the visual orchestration of a diplomatic incident between early Tang China and the Eastern Turkic nomads. In the autumn of 626, the Turkic khan Illig (r. 620–30) advanced 

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90 Guan Daosheng, ‘Letter to Zhongfeng Mingben’, from Album of Calligraphy by Members of the Zhao–Guan Family (Yuan Zhao Guan shi yimen shufa ce), ink on paper.

with a massive army on the Tang capital Chang’an (modern Xi’an). Li Shimin, the future emperor Taizong, rode out to meet him at Bian Bridge. Impressed by the preparedness and skills of the Tang forces and reminded by Taizong of previous accords, Illig concluded a new treaty there at Wei River (modern Xianyang, Shaanxi province) with the slaughter of a white horse. Regardless of which side actually gained the upper hand, in the painting the nomad chieftain is seen kneeling in subservience by the bridge as the Tang prince-general approaches. A year later, unseasonal snow on the steppe devastated nomad livestock and Illig was eventually defeated, captured and brought to Chang’an, which Taizong observed ‘was enough to blot out my dishonour at Wei River’.³³ As with some other Yuan paintings, such as Episodes from the Career of a Yuan Official, the authorship and context of Chen Jizhi’s scroll (and various copies of it) were displaced by connoisseurs of post-Yuan, early modern China to pre-Mongol periods. This version was historically thought to be a Liao-dynasty painting, from which historical position it could have served as an admonition to northern nomad regimes like the Khitan Liao, the Tangut Western Xia and the Jurchen Jin in favour of diplomacy in dealings with the Chinese, and against perfidy and pragmatism. 

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91 Zhao Mengfu, Red-robed Western Monk, dated 1304 and colophon of 1320, handscroll, ink and colours on paper.

Although other versions of this painting are ascribed to Song painters like Li Gonglin and Liu Songnian (1174–1224) and the Jin-dynasty painter Li Zao (active 1190–95), stylistically, Chen Jizhi’s painting tallies with what we would expect from an educated artist working in north China in the mid-Yuan period.³4 The artist’s inscription bears a slightly puzzling, compressed form of date, you shen zhong chun,   , which may be unravelled to reveal its likely historical position as follows: (Yan-)you  (reign period: 1314–20), (geng-)shen  (cyclical year date: 1320), mid-spring.³5 The khan Ayurbarwada in fact died in the spring of 1320 and was succeeded by his son Shidebala (r. 1320–23). This painting belongs in that transitional moment of hiatus and instability in which all manner of factions in the Yuan polity were jockeying for position. A personal seal impressed under the inscription notes that the painting was ‘lightly made by Jizhi of Bamboo Slope’ (Zhupo Jizhi xizuo). Politically, it is unlikely that an unknown such as Chen Jizhi was seeking to advance any specific political agenda, but despite the false modesty of his ‘lightly made’ (a scholarly convention), the painting clearly appropriates this political case from Tang history to function as a warning to all parties to act in the best interests of the Yuan dynasty. Yu Hui believes that the painter’s depiction of ‘diverse [ethnic] minority activities [such as polo and equestrian acrobatics] makes it easy to perceive the deep emotional attachment he feels for the Tangut people’.³6 Perhaps he was himself a Tangut, or a Jurchen, Khitan or Uighur, if not in fact a Han Chinese or the offspring of a mixed marriage. The painter being otherwise unknown, it is hard to picture the intended audience for this kind of painting in 1320, other than men of letters from or living in his locality, the capital region. Nonetheless, this degree of freedom of expression at this moment of the Mongol Yuan regime is remarkable, indeed scarcely imaginable throughout many other periods of China’s medieval and modern history. This tolerance of 

92 Anon., Two Arhats in a Landscape, Tibet, 14th century, hanging scroll, ink, colours and gold on cotton.

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93 Chen Jizhi, detail from Treaty at Bian Bridge, dated 1320, handscroll, ink on paper.

debate, not just in political and social matters, but also extending to faiths, the arts and Asian regional histories is a distinctive hallmark of the mid- and late Yuan polity, as we shall explore further later with a look at critical assessments of Asia’s traditions of writing.



94 Ke Jiusi (1290–1343), Ink Bamboo of the Pure Hidden Tower, dated 1338, hanging scroll, ink on paper. This painting was executed for the owner of the Pure Hidden Tower (Qingbige) which is mentioned in the inscription. Ke Jiusi gave a precise date (13th day of the 12th month of the wuyin year of Zhiyuan), but avoided noting the year in terms of the years into the reign-date (4), using instead the cyclical date wuyin, perhaps to underscore his retirement from the court.

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everal of the Mongol rulers before Tugh Temür, whose Chinese throne name was Wenzong (r. 1328–9, 1329–32), had been well disposed toward Han learning and literary culture, notably Ayurbarwada khan and also his sister Sengge Ragi, both of whom were collectors of old masters and patrons of leading contemporary calligraphers and painters. Ayurbarwada’s son and successor Shidebala (Yingzong, r. 1320–23) was the first name listed for the Yuan in Tao Zongyi’s history of calligraphy where the critic observes how ‘a spirit that was heroic and untrammelled, steadfast and valiant came out of his brush tip and was enough to illuminate his times’. His regal inscriptions were placed upon pillars in the palace, and he had the aphorism ‘the sound of supreme government’ (after his reign name Zhizhi) put onto a qin zither, indicating how China’s high culture could be incorporated into Mongol–Yuan kingship.¹ The son of Ayurbarwada’s brother Khaishan (Wuzong, r. 1308–11), Tugh Temür khan was equally devoted to the arts and had actually travelled in regions including Jiangnan.² His reign was assuredly short – or, more accurately, reigns, as he stood down when it emerged that Khoshila (r. 1329), a more senior figure, had been enthroned on the steppe, only to assume the reins of power again after Khoshila died en route to Dadu (see Appendix). In his short reigns, then, he had two major cultural achievements: one was the redaction of the Jingshi dadian (Encyclopaedia of statecraft), a now lost official compendium of statutes and laws of state; the other was the foundation of the Hall of the Stars of Literature Academy (Kuizhangge xueshi yuan), the institution which concerns us in this chapter.³ These projects enabled him to assemble a coterie at court of the leading Confucian-educated scholars. The problems I want to explore, insofar as it is possible to tell from official cultural endeavours, concern the extent to which the political vision, ambitions and policies of these mid-Yuan khans were governed by their affinity for China’s classical art and learning; and what effects, if any, their initiatives might have had in shaping literary culture across the Yuan empire. 

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Situated in the royal palace precinct in the heart of Dadu, in the west wing of the Xingshengdian palace, the Kuizhangge hall itself had provided the storage facility for a collection comprising calligraphy and painting scrolls, antiquities, books, maps and other treasures, hence its alternate name, ‘Assembled Jades Inner Office’ (Qunyu neisi). In the second year of his reign (Tianli 2; 1329) Tugh Temür created the eponymous academy there, peopling it with ranks of scholars including Great Scholars, Attendant Doctors of Letters and the Chief Executive Academician. He himself wrote out and presented to the academicians their commissions of appointment ‘in Jin-style calligraphy that most of these officials could not achieve’.4 The ideal that a coterie of the brightest intellects, exceptional men of letters selected via the examination system, with access to a superlative collection of Chinese art, might decide government policy on the basis of their discussions and actually govern the state according to a Confucian model of statecraft must have been appealing. In reality the Kuizhangge was no such thing, being never more than a forum for scholars to view and discuss the contents of the collections, and considerably less governmental than the Hanlin Academy, which existed to draft edicts and compile official history. Nonetheless, the few short years of the Kuizhangge’s existence are a celebrated moment in Yuan cultural history for this coincidence of enlightened kingship, Confucian scholarship and calligraphic talent. Among the members of this select academy were literary scholars, some of whom where calligraphers or painters. A follower of Zhao Mengfu and a brilliant calligrapher in all scripts, Yu Ji (1272–1348) was perhaps the most famous. Among the prominent calligraphers of the academy was the semu scholar-official Kangli Naonao, who saw himself as rivalling Zhao Mengfu in this field. The calligrapher and bamboo painter Ke Jiusi (1290–1343) enjoyed the limelight at court during this short reign. Another of the luminaries was Jie Xisi, a Chinese commoner from Jiangxi and a talented scholar of literature and history. A protégé of Cheng Jufu, 

95 Anon. (Yuan dynasty, c. 1323–33), Portraits of Four Yuan Scholars, handscroll, ink and colours on paper.

96 Sadula (sinicized Uighur, 1300–1348?), Fishing Terrace at Yanling, dated 1339, hanging scroll, ink and light colours on paper.

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he received his first position as a junior editor in the History Office of the Hanlin Academy in 1314, was soon drafting reports in the Hanlin, before becoming assistant professor in the National University, and later Reader-in-waiting and chief editor of the national history and drafter of imperial edicts in the Hanlin. Jie Xisi’s calligraphy was ‘hoary, ancient and powerful’. 5 As a litterateur, he was grouped with Yu Ji, Liu Guan (1270–1342) and Huang Jin (1277–1357) as the ‘Four Eminences of the Confucian Forest’ (Rulin sijie). He was also depicted in the 1320s in a scroll of Portraits of Four Yuan Scholars, after Wu Cheng (1249– 1333), Yu Ji and Ouyang Xuan (illus. 95). Liu Guan is described as a voracious scholar of many subjects (classics and philosophy, military and legal history, mathematics, divination and abstruse subjects). According to his official biography ‘there was nothing he did not master’.6 As we should expect for the mid-Yuan, the Kuizhangge was a poly-ethnic academy, and as many non-Chinese as Chinese names appear in the roll of members. The well-known figure of Sadula (1300–1348?), a jinshi graduate of the examination system in 1327, leads a list of non-Chinese names, most of the rest of which are not familiar in the extant visual record. A brusque landscape painting dated 1339 ascribed to Sadula is in the National Palace Museum, Taipei (illus. 96). Meanwhile, an extensive roll of Kuizhangge scholars, also listing in each case the scholar’s other official titles, appears on the official colophon of 1329, recording a group viewing of a fine old master painting in the Kuizhangge collection, Zhao Gan’s (tenth century) Along the River in Early Snow, also in Taipei, discussed below. Early landscape paintings like Zhao Gan’s, however, by their nature could not have had the pragmatic impact in society of model ancient works of calligraphy, which had an immediate value as means to define court style and shape the cultural agenda. In this respect, the scholarly activities of the Kuizhangge scholars followed a path beaten by Zhao Mengfu, whose intimate, first-hand encounters with old masterworks informed his public calligraphic style – the one seen in texts transcribed for steles commemorating the building of or repair to religious and official buildings or the erection of tombs. (A highly political example of the last is Zhao Mengfu’s Stele for Imperial Preceptor Danba in the Palace Museum, Beijing, erected in 1316 after the lama was posthumously rehabilitated by Ayurbarwada.) In one early colophon to a short manuscript believed to be by Wang Xizhi (303– 365), Dadao tie (Great way; illus. 97), Zhao Mengfu regretted that he had not found the time to have a copy of the piece made, that is to say, a stone engraving from which ink rubbings could be disseminated to interested scholars. The wider intellectual context to the formation of the Kuizhangge Academy included the growth of scholarly publishing, especially in the decades leading up to the foundation of the Kuizhangge, as touched upon in the previous chapter. The 

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97 Attributed to Wang Xizhi (Tang-dynasty copy or freehand copy by Mi Fu [c. 1100]?), Dadao tie (Great way), and colophon by Zhao Mengfu, dated 1287, handscroll, ink on paper. The artwork itself comprises two lines of cursive script on the dark strip of silk flanked by paler silk border-panels. The text, about the transmission of the Great Way (or Dao), reads:    (The Great Way has long not been passed down but surely at first it was never so!). To the left, evincing no interest whatsoever in the content of this text, is a colophon by Zhao Mengfu in which he echoes visual effects of the model, for instance by freely mixing a few free-flowing cursive characters into the stable, squared structure shared by the majority of characters and the inscription itself. In his colophon, Zhao Mengfu regrets that due to incessant official travel between Dadu and the south (he was a midranking Postal Service official in the Board of War) he has not had spare time to have ink-rubbing copies made to distribute to fellow connoisseurs.

reintroduction of the examination system had, in addition, produced a certain euphoria among Chinese-educated scholars, among them Jie Xisi.7 Yet, we may also note in passing the sounding of disquiet and misgivings about the system (distinct from Song yimin’s sense of loss) in mid-Yuan art, possibly a sign of the quick maturing of the dynasty. We return to two such artworks featuring metaphorical nature scenes of insects eating one another in the next chapter: Xie Chufang’s (active early fourteenth century) Fascination of Nature, dated 1321, and the Jianbaizi painting of 1330. Amid these developments in mid-Yuan political society and the art world, in the semi-public critical space where colophons were inscribed in the backing paper of scrolls, leading members of the poly-ethnic elite revealed their chief concerns: they routinely commented on the quality and lineage of the preceding artwork. Occasionally kinship is noted, but about issues of ethnicity they are silent. Kangli Naonao, for instance, in a colophon to Ren Renfa’s Zhang Guo’s Audience with Emperor Minghuang (illus. 98, 99; which artfully likens Khubilai khan to Tang emperor Taizong), praises qualities of the brush technique as skilled and wonderful and the figures as full of life, before noting a family connection. Kangli Naonao’s third nephew was married to Ren Renfa’s daughter. This was hardly an isolated example of intermarriage – as is well known, at about the same time, the last Yuan khan elevated a Korean serving woman to become empress Qi (Korean: Ki) and her son Ayushiridara became the heir apparent (see Appendix). Fascinating new directions in research are now being opened up as recognition of this pluralist cultural reality spreads. Research on collecting and connoisseurship in the early Yuan, for instance, now emphasizes how art served as a common 

98, 99 Ren Renfa (1254–1327), detail from Zhang Guo’s Audience with Emperor Minghuang, handscroll, ink and colours on silk. Colophons by Kangli Naonao and Wei Su.

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interest among members of the post-1276 Yuan elite, even in the Jiangnan region. The bulk of the evidence is of course from the perspective of southern Chinese men, such as Zhou Mi, traditionally regarded as a marginal Song loyalist, who saw more collections than most and made detailed inventories, as noted. Collections of Chinese art by non-Chinese men little known or unknown in mainstream Chinese connoisseurly literature did exist, however if these collectors made inventories they do not survive, while their seals are still today sources of puzzlement. Various seals of likely Yuan-dynasty date on one famous scroll, the Admonitions of the Court Instructuress scroll attributed to Gu Kaizhi in the British Museum, serve as examples. One is the so-called monogram seal (such seals are known in Chinese as huaya, ‘flower impressions’) resembling the Chinese character yong 7 to be found positioned as a bridging seal, riding the blue silk end-panel and the buff panel which follows, in the middle of the scroll. Above it is the seal of the Jin emperor Zhangzong (r. 1190–1208), qunyu zhongmi (‘a treasure amid myriad jades’) and below it is the chang * seal of the treacherous late Southern Song minister Jia Sidao (1213–1275). On the basis of its position and its non-Chinese legend, the expectation would be that this is a Yuan seal. On the same level is another seal which reads sanhuai zhiyi T68 (‘descendants of the three junipers’; that is, of the Wang family), which has also been identified as a possible seal of the Daoist Wang Shouyan (1273–1353).8 Close to that seal is a final problematic example: this is a seal in Phagspa script reading ‘Ali’, which appears on the painting itself close to the front.9 Ali has been identified as a late-thirteenth-century Muslim (Huihui, likely Uighur) official active in south China.¹0 Perhaps more important for art historians is the fact that the same seal appears on at least three other important scrolls of calligraphy.¹¹ This man was clearly a collector of important old master specimens of Chinese calligraphy and his activities deserve to be far better understood. In addition to these likely Yuan seals, it is also possible that various other accretions to the Admonitions are Yuan in date, including the inventory mark (P?$#9, ‘“scroll” number 17’) on the front border-panel. Meanwhile, the silk specialist Zhao Feng has suggested that the two yellow border-panels, with designs of cranes amid ruyi-shaped clouds that were popular in the Mongol period, could be Yuan in date, raising the possibility that the scroll was actually remounted in Yuan style by Ali or another of its Yuan owners.¹² Research to date has afforded only glimpses of the wider impact of the Mongol polity on the canonical core of the Yuan art world and much of that canon remains to be deconstructed. There are various ways that such impact might begin to be measured. After the establishment of the Yuan and the incorporation of south China into 

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the empire, the public calligraphy by leading Chinese scholar-officials like Zhao Mengfu adopted the aesthetics of Tang calligraphy – direct, legible, elegant – which is seen in the scores of transcriptions these men did for stele engravings for public buildings. This might be regarded as a traditional response whereby value-laden references to past modes and styles are represented in a new style geared toward the present. Signs that non-Chinese, regional aesthetics might be reshaping the art of Chinese calligraphy (beyond Chinese calligraphers responding to the Yuan context from within the tradition) appear in the 1320s. An example is in the calligraphy of the celebrated lyricist Guan Yunshi (original name Xiaoyunshihaiya; 1286–1324), a Hanlin scholar from a prominent Uighur family. A rare colophon in cursive-script calligraphy to a painting of Two Thoroughbreds (a spurious attribution to Zhao Mengfu) comprises a poetic quatrain (two seven-character couplets) followed by a signature in the last line, a sobriquet or pen-name that is only partially legible as Chinese: Lu X X ren (man . . . of Lu ??; illus. 100). The calligraphy of the signature is presumably a very cursive form of Chinese that is not legible, but – deliberately or not – it does look remarkably like some of the alphabetic script languages of the

100 Guan Yunshi, alias Xiaoyunshihaiya (Uighur, 1286–1324), colophon to Two Thoroughbreds, handscroll, ink on paper.

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Inner Asia region that were written vertically. Fascinating possibilities begin to open up. A similar disorienting effect occurs in a celebrated example of Mongol imperial criticism of Chinese calligraphy. This is the case of the southern Chinese scholar and calligrapher Ban Weizhi (active first half of the fourteenth century), who came to court on recommendation in the 1320s to participate in the empress’s project to complete a tripitaka in gold. Ban Weizhi’s calligraphy and lifestyle were the subject of criticism by late Yuan connoisseurs like Tao Zongyi, who denounced as ‘frightfully vulgar’ his habit of repaying his creditors by writing calligraphy pieces. Ban had already been decried by the khan Tugh Temür who remarked that Ban was ‘like a drunken Chinese cursing in the street’.¹³ Not much of Ban Weizhi’s calligraphy survives, but one notable example is a colophon of 1326 to, of all paintings, the famous scroll of an official debauching himself at a party, Han Xizai’s Night Revels attributed to Gu Hongzhong (937–975) (illus. 101 and illus. 102). The calligraphy is in small standard script – a mode well suited to writing sutras as it happens – executed in lines that slant distinctively. That lean was hardly an offence or even poor taste, and in fact Ban Weizhi acknowledges its presence by skewing the last of his three seal impressions (the circular one) to counterbalance the whole visually. Neither was the twisting of a seal like this an eccentricity; Guan Yunshi does it with his suanzhai (‘sour studio’) seal after his signature (see illus. 100). The case of Ban Weizhi illustrates that by the mid-Yuan, Chinese-educated Mongol emperors were highly sensitized to Chinese cultural concepts and ideals, patently capable of criticizing Chinese for lapses of taste and conduct, and that this criticism was accepted by later Yuan connoisseurs. Tugh Temür went even further, being the founder of the Kuizhangge Academy, which existed as a forum for the discussion of mores. His Chinese temple name Wenzong (‘ancestor of wen’) aptly connotes this, since wen connotes civil (as opposed to military, wu) culture: literature, accomplishment, even civilization.

The Kuizhangge Academy in Action The visual records of the activities of the Kuizhangge comprise mainly colophons to scrolls. Sometimes these are by one or two senior figures, such as Yu Ji or Ke Jiusi. On occasion ranks of scholars assembled in the Kuizhangge to view important old master paintings, what might be seen as an official version of the ‘elegant gathering’ (yaji) which to this date had been common in culture outside the inner court. A long list of names and official titles appended to a fine tenth-century 

handscroll painting, Zhao Gan’s (active before 575) Along the River in Early Snow (National Palace Museum, Taipei) is the record of one such stellar gathering in 1329 by one of the scholars (it is not clear which; possibly Hudulu Duermishi), which was presented to the khan (illus. 103). The attendees included: Zhang Jingxian, registrar of the Kuizhangge Academy; Ke Jiusi, associate calligrapher and official of the literary forest; Ya Hu, associate calligrapher; Li Na, scholar in attendance; Sha Laban, scholar in attendance; Li Jiong (1274–1332), executive academician; Duo Lai, executive academician and also a chief minister of the left; Yu Ji, whose string of titles included calligrapher-in-waiting, Hanlin executive academician and redactor of the National History; Sa Di, a calligrapher-in-waiting and also a chief minister of the right; Zhao Shiyan (1259–1336), a great scholar of the academy and also a senior official in the Central Secretariat, and one of the editors-in-chief of the Jingshi dadian; and Hudulu Duermishi, grand scholar and official of the palace household. 

101 Attributed to Gu Hongzhong (10th century; a 12th-century copy?), detail of Han Xizai’s Night Revels, handscroll, ink and colours on silk.

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102 Colophon of Ban Weizhi, dated 1326.

About half of these men were Chinese, with the remainder Mongol and semu. Apart from Hudulu Duermishi, which is the Chinese transcription of a foreign (Mongol?) name, all the others bear names that are either Chinese or in Chinese style, being two or three characters. (I have made a judgement about how to romanize them in the cases of Ya Hu (Yahu?), Sha Laban (Shalaban?), Duo Lai (Duolai?) and Sa Di (Sadi?).) The list also indicates what other official posts these men held: some were skilled calligraphers and/or academics, others were also ministers of state. The connoisseurship and practice of calligraphy, centred on the canonical epistolary tradition coming down from the Two Wangs in the Eastern Jin dynasty, were clearly core competences of the academy. Some of the academy’s activities with regard to the core of the canon represented both official and royal co-option of earlier Yuan connoisseurship carried on by men like Zhao Mengfu and his 

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103 Colophon by a member of the Kuizhangge Academy (possibly Hudulu Duermishi), dated 1329, to Zhao Gan (active 10th century), Along the River in Early Snow, handscroll, ink and colours on silk.

circle. A Dingwu ink-rubbing version of the Orchid Pavilion Preface (National Palace Museum, Taipei) is an example of how that early Yuan scholarly lineage underpinned the Kuizhangge with its imperial patronage (illus. 104). This was the kind of artwork that connoisseurs lived to see and discuss: by consensus, it had real quality, antiquity and pedigree – and cultural centrality, being among the finest extant ink-rubbing versions of Wang Xizhi’s masterpiece of 353. The scroll mounting featured colophons by the prominent calligrapher and minor official Xianyu Shu (c. 1257–1302), and the southern Chinese scholars Zhao Mengfu, Deng Wenyuan (1258–1329) and Yuan Jue (1267–1327), as well as one by the less known Huang Shiweng (active late thirteenth–early fourteenth century), a presumed specialist on ink-rubbings. In addition there are seals of the collectors Wang Zhi and Qiao Kuicheng (both active late thirteenth–early fourteenth century), and of the critic Tang Hou (1255/62–before 1317).¹4 Presumably, like many other old masterworks, the scroll had emerged onto the market and into circulation in the south following the fall of the Song in 1276 – it could have been in the Song imperial collection, for instance – and soon found its way into official circles, where it accrued the colophons and seals noted above. In Tugh Temür’s reign it entered the imperial collection (we 

104 Wang Xizhi (303–365), Orchid Pavilion Preface (known as the Ke Jiusi version), ink rubbing from a Dingwu engraving mounted as a handscroll. This rubbing has Yuan colophons by a constellation of Yuan connoisseurs: Yu Ji (marking the khan’s bestowal of the rubbing on Ke Jiusi, 1330), Xianyu Shu (1297), Zhao Mengfu (1309), Huang Shiweng (undated), Yuan Jue (undated), Deng Wenyuan (1307), and Kangli Naonao (on acquiring the rubbing from Ke Jiusi in exchange for a Dong Yuan painting, after 1330).

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cannot specifically say the Kuizhangge’s collection) and its treatment at this point exemplifies the role of the academy. It was impressed with the marks of Mongol royal ownership, as evidenced by the reign seal, ‘Treasure of Tianli’ (Tianli zhi bao), and provided official colophons by the leading calligrapher-connoisseurs. Kangli Naonao celebrated its becoming ‘an imperial treasure . . . an eternal treasure to be preserved’. Yu Ji’s colophon marked the occasion: On the twelfth day of the first month of the third year of Tianli [1330], the emperor came to the Kuizhangge, commanding the associate calligrapher Ke Jiusi to bring in from his family collection another rubbing of the Dingwu Orchid Pavilion with the five lost characters. The khan viewed it and adjudged it fine. He personally [impressed the] ‘Treasure [of Tianli’ seal] on it before bestowing it back [upon Ke]. Calligrapher-scholar in attendance Yu Ji, recorded by imperial command.


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As a sign of his good faith, the same day, the khan presented Ke Jiusi with yet another piece of calligraphy, Wang Xianzhi’s Yatou wan tie (‘Mallard blood pill’ manuscript; Shanghai Museum), an event he also had Yu Ji officially record. This example illuminates the specifics of the treatment of core Chinese culture in the mid-Yuan context. On the one hand, it is easy to see these activities as part of a diachronics of Chinese art history, that smooth process of commentary on and transmission of the classics. Yet it is also possible to see the complex agency of this object and its reception within the Kuizhangge political framework at a time when the continuity of Chinese culture was never a given. Tugh Temür khan was evidently pleased with his new academy and its collection and activities, and in the new year of 1331 himself composed a commemorative Record of the Pavilion of the Stars of Literature to be carved in stone.¹5 But he died the following year and in the messy successions which followed, the fledgling academy lost some of its direction. Ke Jiusi quit the court, and the name was later changed to Xuanwenge, Academy for the Dissemination of Culture.¹6 Under Tugh Temür’s successors, Irinjibal (r. 1332) and then Togön Temür, who was just 13 when he ascended the throne (r. 1333–70), the Confucian model of statecraft came under the intense pressure of circumstance: witness how the powerful Mongol minister Bayan suspended the civil service exams between 1335 and his fall in 1340 at the hands of his Confucian-educated nephew Toghtō (Tuo Tuo; 1314–1356). Intense political tussling among members of the Mongolian nobility became entrenched, and scholarly and other projects subject to whim and political happenstance. It was both because of and despite Toghtō’s erudition that he was charged with the editing of no less than three official dynastic histories, of Song, Liao and Jin, at immense speed beginning in 1343. ¹7

Values to ‘Govern the Country and Bring Peace to the World’ A self-conscious hunger for social justice and the promotion of meritocratic values in official life nestle in the art of many Chinese scholar-artists of the early Yuan. An anonymous Confucian-themed painting bearing a colophon of 1330 provides evidence of the wider spread of a discourse on the official inculcation of Chinese Confucian values in mid-Yuan society under Ayurbarwada and his immediate successors. This is an incomplete mid-Yuan scroll by an unknown workshop painter, Four Exemplars of Filial Piety (Sixiao tu; Taipei Palace Museum), encountered above, which features four stories from the repertoire of exemplary Confucian figures in history, in the format of an illustration and a text for each exemplar.¹8 

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105 ‘Cao E throws herself into the river’, scene Four from Four Exemplars of Filial Piety. Colophon by Li Jujing, dated 1330, handscroll, ink and colours on silk.

The first three are tales of selfless individuals who perform exemplary acts of duty in the service of their family elders, by providing preferred or medicinal dishes for ailing or elderly relatives. In the first, a dutiful daughter-in-law cuts flesh from her own leg to make a nourishing broth. In the third, discussed previously, a young man lies on a frozen river in winter to melt a hole to fish through, a gesture which so moves Heaven that the carp swim willingly to his hand (see illus. 55). Although the function of the story is to promote xiao S or ‘filial piety’ as a social norm governing all manner of human relationships – between family, friends and even ruler and subject – its reception would also have been coloured by the popularity in the Yuan of stories about Heaven being moved, whether by exemplary conduct or outrageous fortune. We focus in more detail on the last scene about the exemplary woman Cao E  (illus. 105), the fourteen-year-old girl of the late Han period who, as noted, shares her given name with Dou E, heroine of the Yuan drama, Injustice to Dou E, one of those tales that moved Heaven and stirred Earth. Cao E’s father was a shaman. In 143 ce, while performing the annual ritual to appease the river god in Shangyu, Zhejiang province, he fell in and drowned. His body was not recovered, however, meaning that he could not receive a proper (Confucian) burial, nor could the correct rituals be performed by his ancestors in perpetuity. After a vigil on the bank, Cao E finally threw herself in to search for her father. Some days later both corpses washed up, Cao E’s holding her father’s. This story then became richly overlaid with historical detail. The local people erected a stele to commemorate Cao E’s dutiful conduct. The erecting of stone memorials (bei), and also the visiting of them by pilgrims (fang bei), were emerging as new cultural activities in late Han China, which would later also become a popular sub-genre of landscape painting.¹9 The Cao E stele was soon visited by


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the eminent scholar Cai Yong (132–192), whose daughter Wenji was the subject of another well-known historical tale after she was abducted by nomads and married to a chieftain whose children she bore, but was later repatriated. Cai Yong was so moved by Cao E’s story that he composed a paean to her, a word puzzle which he had engraved on the back of the monolith. Underscoring the topicality of all these layers of historical detail in the midYuan, the text of the Cao E stele existed in the form of a manuscript handscroll entitled Filial Woman Cao E Stele (Xiaonü Cao E bei; Liaoning Provincial Museum; illus. 106), featuring calligraphy in small standard script that carried a traditional attribution to Wang Xizhi. Having been in the Southern Song imperial collection in the mid-twelfth century, after the fall of the Song in the Jiangnan region in 1276, the scroll resurfaced and began to circulate among art connoisseurs of the early Yuan period. It was seen in a private collection, that of a renowned acquisitor of calligraphy called Guo Youzhi (d. 1302), and commented upon by Zhao Mengfu in the 1280s, one of Zhao’s earliest colophons. ²0 Subsequently it entered the Yuan imperial collection, or more specifically the Kuizhangge, where it was viewed and authenticated by the khan with Ke Jiusi and Yu Ji and impressed with the royal seal, ‘Treasure of Tianli’ (Tianli zhi bao).²¹ Its chief significance, according to Zhao Mengfu in his colophon, was as ‘the number one [example] of standard script calligraphy’. All this was ‘documented by imperial order’ in the fourth month of the second year of Tianli (1329) in the inscription by Yu Ji, whose usual calligraphic hand was a form of small standard script. This natural affinity with the old master model must have made him an appropriate choice of calligrapher for the appended colophon. The first colophon in the backing paper after the text itself is the midtwelfth-century Song imperial colophon. It did not neglect to mention, at an early opportunity, the most celebrated piece of literary lore attached to the Cao E stele, namely Cai Yong’s word puzzle, the eight words in praise of Cao E, to which we return below. We may note, first, one of the reasons why Cai Yong’s puzzle was so famous: this had to do with a night-time visit to the stele early in the third century by two further names in China’s early medieval history, the notorious warlord Cao Cao (155–220) and his brilliant advisor Yang Xiu (175–219). As is 

106 Traditionally attributed to Wang Xizhi (303–365), Filial Woman Cao E Stele (Xiaonü Cao E bei), handscroll, ink on silk. The backing paper bears the colophon of Sunzhai (Song Gaozong?; mid-12th century), and a Tianli seal, followed by colophons of Yu Ji (1329) and Zhao Mengfu (before 1287).

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emerging, the topic of Cao E represents an elaborate interweaving of historical events, values and artworks along with their later reception, and the Yuan iteration of the topos ought to afford insight and merits investigation. The illustration of the story in a single scene in the Four Exemplars painting is, in the first instance, useful visual evidence. To begin with, this is an example of a fully narrative, if highly conflated, illustration of relevant events, in the sense that there is clear narrative development in time and space. In the centre, a pale dishevelled figure of Cao E is seen on the bank looking out over the receding surface of the water, where, after her father drowned, she called out without cease for seven days and nights. Here she is seen as a somewhat ghostly figure, as if lit by moonlight. To the right, she also appears as a corpse emerging from the river with her father’s dead body. Then, to the left, three men and attendants stand before the stele erected to Cao E. They could just be pilgrims or tourists, figures required in the image to give a human context to the monolith of Cao E’s stele.²² Public steles like this one were typically mounted for stability into the back of a stone platform carved into the form of a tortoise. (The animal was believed to have magical powers and longevity.) In the illustration, the animal’s head can be seen facing the men’s feet, so it is clear that they are regarding the front of the stele reading the main inscription and not (or not yet) Cai Yong’s puzzle, which was engraved on the back. Judging by their expressions and gestures, the three men are engaging closely with the stele text. As the textual accompaniment to this painting makes clear, when Cao Cao and Yang Xiu visited the stele, they did not have a lantern to hand, and had to feel the back of stele by hand to ‘read’ the puzzle. The illustration plays with viewers’ expectations, however. The boy in the middle is carrying a lantern, to indicate that it is dark. On one hand, the lantern in the boy’s hand generalizes the image, distancing it from any specific historical moment. Yet, at the same time, the specificity of the night-time visit and the boy’s glance toward the two figures of Cao E provide visual links to real historical moments. The group of three men could be read as a single party of unknown visitors and/or as the assembled protagonists of the early reception of the story, Cai Yong, Cao Cao and Yang Xiu. In the spirit of didactic painting going back to that early maverick Gu Kaizhi, it is for observers to discuss and argue over these possibilities and thereby to commemorate the story and its inherent value set. As the Southern Song imperial colophon reminds readers, that discussion included Cao Cao and Yang Xiu’s benighted encounter, when they had to ‘read’ the inscription like Braille, by hand. Cai Yong’s word puzzle comprised a sequence of four pairs of characters, as follows:


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   Z huang juan, you fu, wai sun, ji jiu yellow silk, young woman, daughter’s son, spice grinder. In these four pairs, each character can be substituted for another and then combined, ending up with a single character from each pair. First,  yellow silk can be read as ‘coloured silk’ or X] which can be combined in the reverse order (and reducing ] to the silk radical ) to make the character jue ^ which means ‘extremely’. Second,  young woman could also be written shao nü  or young woman and combined, again in reverse, to make the character miao b meaning ‘wonderful’. Third,  grandson can be read as nü zi  or daughter’s son, and these two elements combined to make the word hao  or ‘good’. Finally, Z a grinder for spices may be seen as shou wu xin zhi qi  (a vessel that receives five spices); from these one can take shou  (receive) and xin  (spice) to create the character ci  (refined). Thus, eight characters may be reduced to a four-character eulogy to Cao E, jue miao hao ci ^bor ‘extremely wonderful, good and refined’. Cao Cao could not immediately work out the puzzle like Yang Xiu, solving it only after they had travelled on a distance, prompting him to say that Yang Xiu was 30 li (about 10 miles) cleverer than him. The conflation of all these events, real and implied, into a single tableau in the ‘Cao E throws herself into the river’ scene gives the painting a dramatic, historical quality and lets us see the rectangular picture frame as a stage for conflated moments. A poignant and painterly touch of Yuan realism is the depiction of the reflective little boy looking back across the water, which is possible because of the effects of scale and depth by which the waves diminish in size as they recede into the far distance. That the landscape recedes in this way, a quality picked out in standard painting criticism, enables us to see this painting as a fine general example of Yuan aesthetic sensibility.²³ Not much is known about the colophon writer Li Jujing (active c. 1330) other than the fact that by presenting his scholarly and moral credentials, not to mention his vision of government for the wider world, in this way he was carefully positioning himself, and more than likely seeking thereby a recommendation or promotion in the civil bureaucracy. This is confirmed by his choice of a fashionable style of calligraphy, which is close to Zhao Mengfu’s.


The Hall of the Stars: The Dissemination of a Yuan Literary Culture

The Diffusion of Culture Indicators of the performance of the Kuizhangge Academy as a mechanism for spreading model culture across the Yuan empire would be too many to identify and analyse comprehensively here but some general remarks are possible. As for the late Yuan, the Yuan shi records that after Toghön Temür khan changed the name to Xuanwenge Academy in 1341, he commissioned exemplary texts of leading calligraphers to be engraved onto stone in the Xuanwenge, from where ink rubbing copies were distributed to officials.²4 If we look back at the midYuan Mongol imperium and its learning, it is possible to find some reactions to the Kuizhangge activities in the provinces. Specifically, the earliest extant edition of Shilin guangji, published between 1328 and 1332 in Jiangxi, allows us to examine attitudes to kingship, to the Yuan as a civilization. We will explore the position of calligraphy in Shilin guangji in some detail in the next chapter, but here the focus is on a comment by the author from the discourse on ‘Literary arts’ (Wenyi lei). This part is divided into four sections comprising, first, a crash course in reading Chinese cursive calligraphy; second, a section providing standard script equivalents of ancient seal and clerical script characters, scripts long since abandoned in ‘body text’ but common enough in titles and headlines; third, a section on Mongol writing – that is, Phagspa script; and finally, a section on painting. The introduction to ‘Mongol script’ explains why this new form of learning is included (illus. 107): Mongol writing previously was something that scholars could not read but recently it has come into fashion from north to south and it is now a valued part of the new learning. Consider that after ‘tadpole’ script declined, ‘seal’ and ‘clerical’ scripts took form; these are all the forms of antiquity. After that, ‘standard’ and ‘cursive’ scripts both came into common usage. Today, the civilization of our Princes [that is, the Mongol khans] [wanghua] is so close to antiquity and customs are once again pure, and thus Mongol writing has been established as a specialism. The beginner might try to memorize this section [the Surnames text] and indeed that might be considered a shortcut to entering officialdom.²5 \fe'HMNA-da[`E_&:[=]O5` Ke4_2+QUc.!fWc%e/VYID J[dfa(0=\f