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HOME : Chinese Art : Yuan Dynasty : Buddhist Reliquary with Sanskrit Inscriptions
Buddhist Reliquary with Sanskrit Inscriptions - SF.225
Origin: China
Circa: 1200 AD to 1400 AD
Dimensions: 10.25" (26.0cm) high
Collection: Chinese Art
Medium: Terracotta

Location: Great Britain
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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.

Buddhism in China experienced a revival during the Yuan period, reversing centuries of decline and repression following the Great Persecution of 845 A.D. Unlike the native Chinese rulers of the later Tang period who viewed Buddhism as a corrupting foreign influence, the Yuan rulers, like most of their fellow Mongol Khanates, were much more tolerant of religious diversity. Under the Yuan, Tibetan Buddhism was declared an official religion of China and Tibetan lamas were invited to the royal courts. Texts were translated and elements of Buddhism were fused with native Taoist and Confucian traditions. However, this revival was short-lived, as once the Ming Dynasty overthrew the Yuan, they expelled the lamas from the court and denounced this form of Buddhism as unorthodox. - (SF.225)


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