ART FROM ANCIENT LANDS

Yuan Stone Panel Depicting the Glorious Pavilion - H.555
Origin: China
Circa: 1271 AD to 1368 AD
Dimensions: 23.5" (59.7cm) high x 11" (27.9cm) wide
Catalogue: V20
Collection: Chinese
Style: Yuan Dynasty
Medium: Stone

The Yuan Dynasty was established by Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, upon relocating the capital of his empire from Mongolia to Beijing. The Forbidden City was constructed, a relative oasis of Mongolian culture in the heart of China. While the Mongol elite retained their native language and customs, they did adapt the Chinese system of bureaucratic government and cemented the authoritarian rule of the emperor. Although they were unaffected by Chinese culture, the Yuan did little to stifle the native traditions and beliefs of their subjects. Buddhism continued to flourish, although the monasteries received little funding from the state. In fact, during the Yuan Dynasty, China first began to open up to foreigners. Christian and Hindu missionaries were established in Beijing and Marco Polo made his famous journey during the Yuan era. While the Chinese never accepted the Yuan as a legitimate dynasty, instead viewing them as foreign bandits, the Mongolians rebelled against the Beijing Khans for becoming, “too Chinese.” In the end, the Yuan Dynasty had the shortest duration of the major Chinese Dynasties, lasting little more than a hundred years.

In this stone panel, the "Glorious Pavilion" is depicted in the foreground, while in the background are present a landscape of luscious trees with ripened fruit arching over the rooftop. The un-anchored four foundations of the pavilion give it the appearance of floating in a space separate from that of the figures below. A line of centrality is created by an imaginary pillar composed of a peacock drinking water at the base and three-tiered stele on top of the roof. An exquisitely dressed person is positioned on each side of the pillar--to the left a man is profiled, walking out of the panel's frame and to the right, a masked woman shifting her weight on one leg faces the viewer. The man appears to be a warrior, as if patrolling the grounds of the pavilion, carrying a weapon over his left shoulder and wearing a feathered battle headdress, sweeping cape, studded belt, and animal skin pants and boots. He is stylistically portrayed with an elongated neck and dramatic angular facial features. The woman wears a menacing mask with piercing eyes and tensed forehead although one is left wondering whether the mask differs from her face at all given the consistency of widen facial features. Perhaps possessing special powers, this woman seems to function as a protective entity, combining features of femininity and masculinity to enhance her appearance. The beautiful line of her body accentuated by a high midriff and multiple patterned dress fastened at the hip with a shawl and belt attest to her magnificence as she stands firmly holding a two-pronged device in her hand and balancing an intricate headdress on her head. This stone panel depicts a scene open to many interpretations, yet the consistent theme seems to be that this pavilion contains great sacred significance. - (H.555)

 

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