The first section of the exhibition presents objects that relate to daily life in Yuan China. They include examples of men’s and women’s dresses and ornaments; vessels for ritual purposes and everyday use; and articles associated with travel. In every category, there are objects made using in traditional forms and decoration and others that display influences from Northern and Central Asia that arrived with the Mongols. Nearly all objects in this section are recent archaeological finds from China.

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Scene of a Family Watching a Parade, dated 1334, Jin dynasty (1115–1234), China. Stone; H. 27 3/8 in. (69.5 cm), W. 20 7/8 in. (53 cm), D. 1 3/4 in. (4.5 cm), Wt. 90 lbs. (40.8 kg) (estimated). Lent by Shexian Museum

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Scene of a Family Watching a Parade, dated 1334, Jin dynasty (1115–1234), China. Stone; H. 20 7/8 in. (53 cm); W. 16 1/8 in. (41 cm); D. 1 3/4 in. (4.5 cm); Wt. 90 lbs. (40.8 kg) (estimated). Lent by Shexian Museum.

This piece is part of a group of carved stone panels illustrating the celebrations of a family whose members have just been awarded official academic degrees. Such a degree represented more than mere scholastic achievement; it ensured its recipient a respectable position in the government. This particular stone and the following one show the scholars riding on horses amid a parading crowd, while their exultant families watch from the windows.

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Scene of a Country House, dated 1334, Jin dynasty (1115–1234), China. Stone; 21 1/4 x 61 in. (54 x 155 cm). Lent by Shexian Museum

This stone shows the scholars riding on horses, arriving for a visit to a country retreat.

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Scene of a Restaurant, dated 1334, Jin dynasty (1115–1234), China. Stone; 21 1/4 x 61 x 2 3/4 in. (54 x 155 x 7 cm). Lent by Shexian Museum

This stone shows the recipients on their trips to and from the city, stopping en route for a meal in a restaurant.

Women's Dress and Ornaments

The key article of formal dress of elite Mongol women was the tall gugu headdress, which varied in regions of the vast Mongol Empire and became more elaborate during the Yuan dynasty. The gugu usually was worn with a voluminous robe featuring decorative bands at the neck and wrists and a train carried by an attendant. Women at court also wore less formal yet richly decorated overjackets, two of which are included in the exhibition.

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Unidentified Artist, Portraits of Empresses, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Album leaf; ink and color on silk; Image: 24 x 18 3/4 in. (61 x 47.6 cm); Overall with mounting (open): 29 15/16 x 45 1/16 in. (76 x 114.4 cm); Overall with mounting (closed): 29 15/16 x 22 1/2 in. (76 x 57.2 cm).. Lent by National Palace Museum

The portrait on the right is that of Chabi, consort to Khubilai Khan. She was a remarkably capable woman who was one of her husband's chief advisers. She was also deeply religious and was said to have persuaded Khubilai to convert to Tibetan Buddhism. The portrait on the left is that of Targi, wife of the Prince Darmabala (1264–1292), a grandson of Khubilai. She became empress dowager when her son, Qaishan (r. 1308–11), succeeded his uncle as emperor of the Yuan dynasty.

The nasij neckbands depicted in the portrait of Chabi bear a pattern very similar to that of a textile on view in the exhibition.

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Brimmed Hat, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Fiber, wood, gold and semiprecious stones; H. 3 5/8 in. (9.2 cm), Diam. of head band: 7 1/16 in. (18 cm), Diam. of rim: 13 3/4 in. (35 cm). Lent by Gansu Provincial Museum

According to the Yuanshi (History of the Yuan Dynasty), Khubilai's wife Chabi designed a brimmed hat, at Khubilai's suggestion, to eliminate glare from the sun. In an imperial portrait, the emperor Wenzong (Tugh Temür, r. 1328–29, 1330–32) wears a brimmed hat with a string of hardstones as a decorative chin band.

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Woman's Jacket with Manchijiao Pattern of Lotus Pond and Other Vignettes, dated 1312, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Silk embroidery on silk gauze; 22 13/16 x 42 1/8 in. (58 x 107 cm). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum

Women's short overjackets were frequently highly decorated, as in this delicately embroidered example in purple gauze. Ninety-nine vignettes cover the front and back of the jacket in an offset arrangement, and a larger scene of egrets at a lotus pond appears on each shoulder. A poem by Ke Jiusi (1290–1343) names the pattern of this embroidered jacket—manchijiao, or "pond of beauty"—which he specifies as an embroidered design on court ladies' coats during the Tianli reign (1328–30).

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Woman's Jacket with Gold Rosettes, dated 1312, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Gold leaf on silk gauze; 24 7/16 x 42 1/8 in. (62 x 107 cm). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum

This women's overjacket is decorated overall with gold leaf in a small, repeating pattern of rosettes. The technique was quite common in the Mongol and Yuan periods, and a new adhesive made from peach-tree gum was developed during the Yuan. Such gold-patterned cloth was also used for men's clothing.

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Glass Hairpin, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Glass; L. 5 3/8 in. (13.6 cm). Lent by Hebei Institute of Cultural Relics

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Gold Hairpin, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Gold; L. 6 1/8 in. (15.5 cm). Lent by Hebei Institute of Cultural Relics

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Ornament for a Gugu Headdress, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Gold and carnelian; H. 2 3/4 in. (7 cm). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum

This ornament of gold set with carnelian was found with the remains of a gugu headdress. Other decorations for gugu headdresses could include feathers, pearls, and trimmings in silk.

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Hairpin, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Gold, malachite, glass, and pearl; L. 7 7/8 in. (20 cm). Lent by Hebei Institute of Cultural Relics

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Jade and Gold Hairpin, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Jade and gold; L. 8 1/16 in. (20.5 cm); L. (without finial) 6 11/16 in. (17 cm). Lent by Hebei Institute of Cultural Relics

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Earring, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Gold, malachite, glass; L. 1 9/16 in. (4 cm). Lent by Hebei Institute of Cultural Relics

This earring is one example of several objects on view in the exhibition whose gold pieces in filigree and granulation, with stone inlays, represent the gold-making traditions of the Mongolian and Central Asian steppes. (See also the next image.) Other pieces in repoussé, also on view in the exhibition, are more Chinese in style, as are the glass hairpin and the jade and gold hairpin. Several of the pieces on view were excavated from the tombs of the Shi family, natives of an area near Beijing, who intermarried with Mongols, Koreans, and Central Asians.

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Ring; Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Gold, malachite, glass, and pearl; Diam. 7/8 in. (2.3 cm). Lent by Hebei Institute of Cultural Relics

This ring is one example of several objects on view in the exhibition whose gold pieces in filigree and granulation, with stone inlays, represent the gold-making traditions of the Mongolian and Central Asian steppes. (See also the previous image and the next image.)

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Ring, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Gold, malachite, glass, and pearl; Diam. 7/8 in. (2.3 cm). Lent by Hebei Institute of Cultural Relics

This ring is one example of several objects on view in the exhibition whose gold pieces in filigree and granulation, with stone inlays, represent the gold-making traditions of the Mongolian and Central Asian steppes. (See also the previous image.)

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Embroidered Shoe, 11th–12th century, China. Wool, hemp, and silk textile upper with silk embroidery, leather sole; L. 9 in. (22.9 cm). Lent by The British Museum

This shoe and the next one were found outside the city wall of Gaochang. They are both decorated with very small pieces of luxury silks, including both silk gauze and cloth of gold (nasij). The latter confirms the presence of nasij in Central Asia in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and suggests that nasij was used in larger amounts for complete garments.

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Embroidered Shoe, 11th–12th century, China. Wool, hemp, and silk textiles; Overall: L. 8 11/16 in. (22 cm). Lent by The British Museum

This shoe and the previous one were found outside the city wall of Gaochang.

Men's Dress and Ornaments

The signature garment of Mongol men was a robe with a cummerbund-like waist, probably deriving from Jin-dynasty antecedents. Surviving fragments suggest that such robes were made from various fabrics associated with specific ethnic groups. For the Mongols' elaborate zhisun feast, robes usually made of cloth of gold (nasij) were further embellished with pearls and precious stones.

Less formally, long garments with decorative badges on the chest and back were worn, with belts, for activities such as hunting. The exhibition includes a belt with a jade belt hook, gold plaques for a leather belt, a hat ornament in gold, and other jade objects.

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Unidentified Artist, Khubilai Khan as the First Yuan Emperor, Shizu, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China, Album leaf; ink and color on silk; Image: 23 1/4 x 18 3/4 in. (59 x 47.6 cm); Overall with mounting (open): 29 1/16 x 45 3/4 in. (73.8 x 116.2 cm); Overall with mounting (closed): 29 1/16 x 22 7/8 in. (73.8 x 58.1 cm) Lent by National Palace Museum

This image of the Great Khan Khubilai as emperor of China is not a finished work. It is the cartoon for the formal portrait, which would be in the form of a tapestry woven of silk threads so fine that at first glance, it could be easily mistaken for a painting. The textured surface of tapestry creates a sense of depth, and the reflective surface of the silk enhances the chiaroscuro effect. Gold threads are added for patterns on the robes. The Mongols valued textiles above all other art forms. Unique in Chinese history, all imperial portraits of the Yuan dynasty were in the form of silk tapestries.

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Hat Ornament with Garudas and Dancing Figures, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Gold; H. 1 5/8 in. (4.1 cm). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum

The birdlike garuda and the dancers with scarves (dakinis) are minor deities in Tibetan Buddhism. In the Yuan period, they were often employed as decoration on objects that were not for liturgical use.

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Hat Ornament with Falcon Hunting a Wild Goose, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Jade; H. 1 3/8 in. (3.5 cm). Lent by Gansu Provincial Museum

The jade articles on view in the exhibition include belt fittings, ornaments for men's hats, and a seal used by senior officials. This hat ornament displays a scene of a falcon attacking a wild goose. The annual spring hunt for geese (or swans) was an important event for nomadic peoples in North China, beginning with the Khitans of the Liao dynasty (907–1125) and continuing under the Mongols.

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Hat Ornament with Egrets among Lotus Plants, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Jade; H. 1 3/4 in. (4.5 cm). Lent by Gansu Provincial Museum

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Robe with "Braided" (Bian Xian) Waist, 13th century, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Silk and metallic thread weft-faced compound twill (samite); 55 7/8 x 96 7/8 in. (142 x 246 cm). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum

.This robe—with a flaring skirt, comparatively fitted sleeves, and a wide waistband with simulated braiding—represents the signature garment of Mongol men. This example is an early piece; later examples feature fine pleats beneath the entire waistband. Such garments are described in the Yuanshi as the apparel of ceremonial guards.

The robe must have been dazzling when new. It was woven predominantly with gold thread, its gold now mostly lost. The underflap of the robe is made from a different fabric, with aligned roundels containing addorsed sphinxes, a pattern of the eastern Iranian world. Both textiles are woven in the centuries-old samite technique, but, unusual for samite, are patterned with much metallic thread, possibly in response to Mongol taste.

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Belt Hook, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368); China. Jade, with silk band; H. 1 in. (2.5 cm), W. 15/16 in. (2.4 cm), L. 4 3/4 in. (12 cm). Lent by Gansu Provincial Museum

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Belt Slide, 12th–14th century, Jin (1115–1234)–Yuan (1271–1368) dynasty, China. Jade (nephrite); L.: 2 11/16 in. (6.9 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Florence and Herbert Irving Gift, 1991 (1991.483)

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Belt Chape with "Lychee" Pattern, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Gold; H. 6 in. (15.3 cm), W. 3 7/16 in. (8.7 cm), D. 7/8 in. (2.2 cm). Lent by Nanjing Museum

This gold belt ornament and the following one are from the tomb of Lü Shimeng (1235–1304), a minister at the Southern Song court who later served the Mongols. They represent two popular types of belt ornaments that were carried over into the Yuan from the Song dynasty.

The blossoms on this belt chape resemble the lychee fruit. Belts decorated with gold plaques in this pattern were commonly referred to in the Yuan period as "lychee belts."

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Belt Chape Illustrating the Legend of Jiang Shang, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Gold; H. 4 5/16 in. (10.9 cm); W. 2 13/16 in. (7.2 cm). Lent by Nanjing Museum

The story depicted on this chape is that of the legend of Jiang Shang, who met the future founder of the Zhou dynasty (ca. 11th century B.C.E.) while fishing on the Wei River in Shaanxi Province. He later became the chief adviser to the future king.

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Belt Hook, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Jade; H. 2 15/16 in. (7.4 cm); W. 2 1/2 in. (6.3 cm); D. 1 in. (2.6 cm). Lent by Nanjing Municipal Museum.

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Seal with Cipher, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Jade (nephrite); H. 1 in. (2.5 cm), W. 1 3/16 in. (3.4 cm), L. 7/16 in. (3.6 cm). Lent by Anhui Provincial Museum

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Saddle Plates, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Gold; H. 4 3/16 in. (10.6 cm); L. 12 7/8 in. (32.7 cm). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum

These gold sheets, decorated in repoussé, were used to cover a wooden saddle. The patterns are typical of those seen on metal objects of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries from the steppes of Northern Asia. The motifs of a recumbent deer and lotus plants on the front plate can be seen on textiles and other decorative arts of the same period.

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Military Official; Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Marble; H. 10 ft. 2 1/16 in. (310 cm), W. 28 3/8 in. (72 cm), D. 39 3/8 in. (100 cm). Lent by Beijing Art Museum of Stone Carvings

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Civil Official, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Marble; H. 10 ft. 2 1/16 in. (310 cm), W. 37 3/8 in. (95 cm), D. 26 3/8 in. (67 cm). Lent by Beijing Art Museum of Stone Carvings

Travel

During the Yuan dynasty, all roads led to Dadu (now Beijing), the city built by Khubilai Khan as the Great Capital of his empire. At regular intervals along this vast network of roads were relay stations where travelers could find food and lodging and purchase supplies. To take advantage of these facilities, the traveler had to carry a pass (fu, pai, or paizi). The passes usually were made of metal, though the material varied depending on the rank of the traveler and the urgency of the mission.

On view in the exhibition are two standard types of passes, as well as pottery figures of a caravan and of a man leading a horse, and a set of gold sheets that covered a saddle.

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Attendants, Guards, and Animals, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) China. Pottery; H. 5 13/16 in. (14.8 cm)–11 13/16 in. (30 cm). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum

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Horse and Groom, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Painted pottery; Groom: H. 11 9/16 in. (29.4 cm); Horse: H. 10 5/8 in. (27 cm); base: W. 6 7/16 in. (16.3 cm); L. 9 1/16 in. (23 cm). Lent by Jiaozuo Municipal Museum

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Pass (Fu or Pai) with Phagspa Inscription, late 13th century, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Iron inlaid with silver; H. 7 1/8 in. (18.1 cm), W. 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Bequest of Dorothy Graham Bennett, 1993 (1993.256)

This is an example of one of the two most common types of passes (pai or paizi) used by travelers during the Yuan period. This example, made of iron with raised silver characters and an animal head in silver damascene, is a Yuan original, while the silver example is of a type that had been used in North China since the Liao dynasty. Both bear an inscription written in Phagspa script, which is named after its creator, the Tibetan monk Chogyal Phagspa (1235–1280). Roughly translated, the inscription reads: "By the strength of Eternal Heaven Edict of the Khan He who does not respect Shall be punished."

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Pass (pai or paizi) with Phagspa Inscription, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Silver; H. 11 7/16 in. (29 cm), W. 3 1/8 in. (8 cm). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology

This is an example of one of the two most common types of passes (pai or paizi) used by travelers during the Yuan period. This example, made of silver, is of a type that had been used in North China since the Liao dynasty (907–1125), while the round version, of iron with raised silver characters and an animal head in silver damascene, is a Yuan original. Both bear an inscription written in Phagspa script, so named for the Tibetan monk who devised the script for the Mongol language. The Phagspa script was officially adopted by the empire in 1269. Roughly translated, the inscription reads: "By the strength of Eternal Heaven Edict of the Khan He who does not respect Shall be punished."

Ritual Vessels

People in the Yuan period followed the traditional Chinese custom of using ritual vessels to make offerings in religious and ancestral temples.

The exhibition includes several examples of ritual vessels used in North China throughout the Yuan dynasty. Of particular interest are the two bronze vessels donated by the Grand Princess Sengge Ragi (ca. 1282–1332), sister of two successive emperors, to temples in the fief of her husband, the duke of Lu (in eastern Inner Mongolia).

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Vessel (Gui), Yuan dynasty (1271–1368). China. Copper; H. 3 5/8 in. (9.2 cm). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum

The inscriptions on this ritual bronze and the following one indicate that they were donated by the Grand Princess Sengge to two temples. The princess was a known patron and collector of Chinese art. The vessel seen here, donated to the Temple of Three Emperors, is a "modernized" version of an archaic vessel whose decoration was adapted from archaic patterns.

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Vessel (Jue), Yuan dynasty (1271–1368). China. Bronze; H. 8 9/16 in. (21.7 cm). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum

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Ritual Vessel (Fu), Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Pottery; H. 10 3/16 in. (25.9 cm), Diam. of rim: 1 3/8 x 1 3/4 in. (3.5 x 4.5 cm), Diam. of foot: 3 7/8 in. (9.9 cm); H. (without cover): 6 5/16 in. (16 cm). Lent by Gansu Provincial Museum

This vessel and the next one represent two kinds of ritual vessels used during the Yuan period in North China.

The vessel seen here appears in a painting attributed to a Southern Song artist that presents an imagined reconstruction of an ancient ceremonial feast. The original archaic version would have been made of bronze and quite different in form.

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Vessel (Jue) and Tray, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Bronze; Vessel (jue): L. 8 1/16 in. (20.5 cm); Tray: H. 1 3/16 in. (3 cm), Diam. 6 7/8 in. (17.5 cm). Lent by Gansu Provincial Museum

This vessel and the previous one represent two kinds of ritual vessels used during the Yuan period in North China.

The bronze tripod cup seen here is fashioned after an archaic form unknown after the Bronze Age until the eleventh century, when scholars identified archaic ritual vessels from archaeological discoveries.

Drinking

The exhibition includes several examples of wine vessels and drinking cups. The ceramic containers were used for transporting wine, the silver bottles for serving it. Porcelain cups of the Yuan period, like the example on view in the exhibition, are often copies after gold and silver prototypes of steppe origin. The glass cup and saucer on view are the only extant examples of their kind from the Yuan dynasty.

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Jar with Lotus Leaf–Shaped Lid, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Porcelain with incised decoration (Longquan ware); H. 12 5/8 in. (32 cm), Diam. of rim: 9 13/16 in. (25 cm), Diam. of foot: 7 1/2 in. (19 cm). Lent by Museum of Huizhou Culture of China

On the sides of this jar are incised the characters qing xiang mei jiu, which translates roughly as "fine wine with delicate bouquet."

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Bottle, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Glazed pottery (Cizhou ware); H. 16 15/16 in. (43 cm), Diam. of base: 3 11/16 in. (9.3 cm). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum

The characters pu tao jiu ping ("grape wine bottle") are incised onto the shoulder of this bottle.

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Yuhuchun Bottle with Scenes of Historical Figures and their Favorite Plants or Birds, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Silver; H. 20 1/4 in. (51.5 cm), Diam. 9 1/16 in. (23 cm). Lent by Dexing Municipal Museum

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Bowl, Xixia dynasty (1032–1227), China. Gold; H. 1 3/8 in. (3.5 cm), Diam. of rim 4 3/16 in. (10.6 cm). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum

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Stand, Xixia dynasty (1032–1227). China. Gold; H. 1 3/4 in. (4.5 cm), Diam. 4 3/4 in. (12 cm). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum

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Bowl with Thumbpiece, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Gold; H. 1 5/16 in. (3.3 cm), Diam. of rim 3/7/16 in. (8.8 cm). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum

Like the pair of stem cups also on view in the exhibition, this type of bowl originated on the Eurasian steppe. Adopted first in North China, it became a common vessel shape during the Yuan period and was replicated in metal and porcelain.

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Pair of Stem Cups, Mongol period (1206–71), China. Gold; a: H. 5 11/16 in. (14.5 cm); b: H. 4 15/16 in. (12.5 cm). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum

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Bowl, Xixia dynasty (1032–1227), China. Gold; H. 1 1/2 in. (3.8 cm); Diam. of rim: 4 3/16 in. (10.6 cm). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum

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Cup and Saucer, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Glass; Cup: H. 1 15/16 in. (4.9 cm), Diam. of rim 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm), Diam. of foot 1 5/16 in. (3.4 cm); Tray: H. 1/2 in. (1.2 cm), Diam. 6 in. (15.2 cm). Lent by Gansu Provincial Museum

Prior to the Yuan period, glass cups in China were imported from the West. This cup and saucer are among the earliest known Chinese products of their kind. They were most likely made in Zibo, Shandong Province, where the site of a large-scale glass workshop dating from the Yuan period has been discovered.

Theater

Chinese theater reached its full maturity during the Yuan dynasty. Evolving from short plays, skits, and monologues, Yuan drama became a full-fledged form of multimedia entertainment that offered plot, acting, dialogue, music, and dance. More than nine hundred plays were produced during the Yuan period on subjects that included heroism, traditional morals, the criticism of corrupt officials, romance, and fairy tales.

Actors and actresses were cast in roles categorized by type, among them male lead, female lead, narrator, and comic character. They dressed in elaborate costumes and often wore exaggerated makeup. Theaters in the city were roofed structures with seats arranged in ascending rows around the three sides of the stage. In the countryside, stages were built in temples where actors would perform during religious and seasonal festivals. Scenery comprised large backdrops of decorated hangings with openings for the actors' entrances and exits. Musical accompaniment was provided by a drum, a clapper, and a flute.

Of all forms of entertainment, Yuan drama held the greatest appeal, drawing an audience from both the social elite and the ordinary marketplace crowd. Its lasting influence on subsequent forms of theater in China can still be observed in present-day Chinese opera.

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Actor in the Leading Male Role (Mo Ni), late 12th century, Jin dynasty (1115–1234), China. Pottery; H. 28 3/4 in. (73 cm), W. 8 11/16 in. (22 cm), D. 5 1/8 in. (13 cm). Lent by Shanxi Museum

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Actor in the Comic Role (Fu Jing), late 12th century, Jin dynasty (1115–1234), China. Pottery; H. 26 in. (66 cm), W. 10 1/4 in. (26 cm), D. 6 7/8 in. (17.5 cm). Lent by Shanxi Museum

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Actor in the Secondary Male Role (Fu Mo), late 12th century, Jin dynasty (1115–1234), China. Pottery; H. 28 3/8 in. (72 cm), W. 9 1/16 in. (23 cm), D. 5 7/8 in. (15 cm). Lent by Shanxi Museum

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Actor in the Role of an Official (Zhuang gu), late 12th century, Jin dynasty (1115–1234), China. Pottery; H. 26 in. (66 cm), W. 9 7/16 in. (24 cm), D. 5 7/8 in. (15 cm). Lent by Shanxi Museum

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Musician or Actor Playing a Flute, 13th century, Jin (1115–1234) or Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Pottery; H. 14 9/16 in. (37 cm). Lent by Henan Museum

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Mongol Dancer, 13th century, Jin (1115–1234) or Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Pottery; H. 15 3/4 in. (40 cm). Lent by Henan Museum

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Actor Holding a Bottle, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Earthenware; H. 19 1/2 in. (49.5 cm), W. 9 1/16 in. (23 cm). Lent by Henan Museum

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Pillow in the Form of a Theater, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Porcelain; H. 7 1/16 in. (18 cm), W. 12 5/8 in. (32 cm), D. 5 7/8 in. (15 cm). Lent by Yuexi Administrative Office of Cultural Relics

The scene represented here can be identified as a celestial celebration attended by the Eight Daoist Immortals.

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Couple Performing a Comic Dance ("Playing the Newlyweds"), first half of the 13th century, Jin dynasty (1115–1234), China. Pottery with pigments; H. 9 15/16 in. (25.3 cm), W. 8 11/16 in. (22 cm), D. 2 1/16 in. (5.2 cm). Lent by Shanxi Museum

Folk dancers and musicians were particularly popular at celebrations and festivals. Dressed in colorful costumes and wearing exaggerated makeup, performers danced to familiar songs played by accompanying musicians. These dances often derived from well-known comic skits, including one popular performance known as "Playing the Newlyweds" in which two dancers pantomimed the first awkward meeting between a bashful bride and her new husband.

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Man Carring a Melon, first half of the 13th century, Jin dynasty (1115–1234), China. Pottery with pigments; H. 9 15/16 in. (25.2 cm), W. 8 3/8 in. (21.3 cm), D. 1 13/16 in. (4.6 cm). Lent by Shanxi Museum

In the well-known skit "Joy of the Harvest," dancers carried large melons or other crops on their shoulders to mimic happy farmers celebrating the bounty of nature.

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Musician Playing a Large Gong, first half of the 13th century, Jin dynasty (1115–1234), China. Pottery with pigments; H. 9 15/16 in. (25.2 cm), W. 8 3/8 in. (21.3 cm), D. 1 13/16 in. (4.6 cm). Lent by Shanxi Museum

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Musician Playing a Small Gong, first half of the 13th century, Jin dynasty (1115–1234), China. Pottery with pigments; H. 9 15/16 in. (25.3 cm), W. 8 11/16 in. (22 cm), D. 2 1/16 in. (5.2 cm). Lent by Shanxi Museum

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Model of a Stage (reproduction) with Five Actors, dated 1210, Jin dynasty (1115–1234), China. Earthenware with pigment; a. Actor zhuang gu: H. 8 1/4 in. (21 cm), W. 2 9/16 in. (6.5 cm); b. Actor fu mo: H. 8 7/16 in. (21.5 cm), W. 2 9/16 in. (6.5 cm); c. Actor mo ni: H. 8 7/16 in. (21.5 cm), W. 2 9/16 in. (6.5 cm); d. Actor zhuang dan: H. 7 11/16 in. (19.5 cm), W. 2 1/16 in. (5.2 cm); e. Actor fu jing: H. 7 11/16 in. (19.5 cm), W. 2 9/16 in. (6.5 cm); f. Stage (modern reproduction): H. 55 1/8 in. (140 cm), W. 39 3/8 in. (100 cm), L. 10 ft. 2 1/16 in. (310 cm). Lent by Shanxi Museum

Left to right: Actor in the Role of an Official, Actor in the Secondary Role, Actor in the Leading Role, Actor who Introduces the Play, Actor in the Comic Role

Architecture

When building their capital cities of Xanadu (or Shangdu, the Upper Capital), Zhongdu (the Middle Capital), and Dadu (the Great Capital), the Mongols adopted many Chinese architectural traditions. Not only did their urban plans adhere to Chinese specifications, their style of building stuck closely to existing models, thus asserting both their legitimacy as rulers within the imperial lineage and their perpetuation of fundamental Chinese beliefs and institutions. However, some of the decorative motifs, such as the dragon on a floral ground seen on a column from Shangdu, are those prevalent in Central Asia at the time.

The large stone architectural elements on display in the exhibition were excavated from sites in the Yuan capitals of Shangdu and Zhongdu. The two stone lions, one in Western style and the other a Chinese version, are from houses in Dadu. The wooden house on view, a piece of burial furniture, is precisely modeled after domestic architecture in its construction.

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Roof-ridge Ornament, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Glazed pottery; H. 73 5/8 in. (187 cm), W. 48 13/16 in. (124 cm), D. 18 11/16 in. (47.5 cm); Oversized, Wt. 250 lbs. (113.4 kg) (estimated). Lent by Shanxi Museum

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Architectural Element in the Shape of a Dragon Head, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Marble; H. 11 5/8 in. (29.5 cm), L. 32 1/2 in. (82.5 cm), Wt. 500 lbs. (226.8 kg) (estimated). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum

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Architectural Element in the Shape of a Dragon Head, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Marble; H. 15 15/16 in. (40.5 cm), W. 27 15/16 in. (71 cm), L. 59 13/16 in. (152 cm), Wt. 1,200 lbs. (544.32 kg) (estimated). Lent by Hebei Institute of Cultural Relics

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Horse on Clouds, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Stone; H. 19 1/8 in. (48.5 cm), W. 11 13/16 in. (30 cm), L. 25 3/16 in. (64 cm), Wt. 255 1/2 lbs. (116 kg); Horse: H. 14 15/16 in. (38 cm), L. 24 13/16 in. (63 cm); Base: H. 4 1/8 in. (10.5 cm), L. 21 5/8 in. (55 cm). Lent by Capital Museum

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Dog on a Corner Stone, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Stone; H. 11 1/4 in. (28.5 cm), W. 16 1/8 in. (41 cm), L. 21 5/8 in. (55 cm), Wt. 191 1/2 lbs. (87 kg). Lent by Capital Museum

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Lion, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Stone; H. 11 13/16 in. (30 cm), W. 18 7/8 in. (48 cm), D. 17 5/16 in. (44 cm); Wt. 66 1/10 lbs. (30 kg). Lent by Beijing Art Museum of Stone Carvings

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Post with Dragon Design Carved in High Relief, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Stone; H. 80 11/16 in. (205 cm), W. 20 11/16 in. (52.5 cm). Lent by Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum

This stone post was excavated from the site of Shangdu (Xanadu), the Upper Capital of the Yuan dynasty. It once stood at the corner of the front platform of the imperial audience hall. The feisty dragons carved on the stone were symbols of imperial authority and a fittingly grand decorative motif for the architecture it embellished.

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Architectural Element in the Shape of a Dragon Head, with Claws, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Marble; W. 11 in. (28 cm), L. 38 3/16 in. (97 cm), Wt. 1,018 1/2 lbs. (462 kg). Lent by Hebei Institute of Cultural Relics

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Lion on a Corner Stone, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Stone; H. 10 5/8 in. (27 cm), W. 13 3/8 in. (34 cm), L. 13 3/8 in. (34 cm), Wt. 125 1/2 lbs. (57 kg). Lent by Capital Museum

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Model of a House, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), China. Wood; H. 29 7/16 in. (74.8 cm), W. 21 15/16 in. (55.7 cm), L. 71 1/16 in. (180.5 cm). Lent by Gansu Provincial Museum

This model of a house once rested upon a coffin and is part of an elaborate burial apparatus. Inside the chamber is a portrait of an elderly woman, most likely the deceased. It is possible that the structure is a model of the shrine that housed the deceased's "spirit tablet." While the chamber's unusual length in relation to its depth suggests that it was not an exact replica of a temple, the building's overall construction and details—the sloped roof supported by abbreviated brackets, the evenly spaced columns, and the latticed windows on the door panels—provide important references to contemporaneous architecture of the Yuan dynasty

"The world of Kubilai Khan" @ Metropolitan Museum New York, september 28, 2010 - january 2, 2011 www.metmuseum.org.