The Society for Song, Yuan, and Conquest Dynasty Studies is an international society committed to the encouragement of the study of Chinese—as well as Jürchen, Khitan, Tangut, and Mongol—history, society, and culture from the founding of the Song dynasty to the end of the Yuan dynasty.

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We are happy to announce that both of our sponsored panels were accepted. Congratulations to organizers and panelists. Dates and times appear below—please mark them on your calendars. We look forward to seeing everyone there!

Title: The Impact of Visual and Material Cultural Networks in the Mongol Empire and Beyond
Time and Date: Friday, March 22, 2019, 9:00 am – 10:45 am
Panelists (alphabetical order): Yong CHO (PhD Candidate, Yale; organizer), Susan HUANG (Associate Professor, Rice, chair), Eiren SHEA (Assistant Professor, Grinnell), Yusen YU (PhD Candidate, Heidelberg)

Panel Abstract
Growing interest in global history has made the Mongol Empire a particularly dynamic subject for art historical research. This panel gathers four art historians focusing on less-studied materials, such as Buddhist woodcuts and books, stone carvings, paper, and textiles to chart out previously unnoticed links of contacts across Eurasia. The panel conceptualizes the cultural space of the Mongol Empire as transcending the borders of political entities such as Yuan China and Ilkhanate Persia. Each study shows how trade and travel facilitated the movement of objects and ideas within this space, creating an expansive network that sometimes went beyond even the geographical bounds of the Mongol Empire, from North and Central Asia to East and Southeast Asia, the Himalayan Plateau, Persia and Western Europe.

Shih-shan Susan Huang argues that elite Uighurs served as sponsors and distributors of Buddhist books and woodcuts over a wide network extending from Beijing and Quanzhou and into Central Asia. Yong Cho discusses the Yuan stone carvings at Juyongguan and proposes possible connections with Southeast Asian sculptural traditions. Yusen Yu analyzes the production and circulation of paper in China, Korea, Baghdad and Samarqand and the role it played in the development of painting and writing practices. Eiren Shea investigates the cultural impact of Mongol luxury textiles on European elite and merchant class identity during the Italian Renaissance. Collectively, the four papers highlight the impact of these trans-regional networks on visual and material culture across Eurasia in the 13th and 14th centuries and beyond.

Elite Uighurs as Cultural Middlemen of Buddhist Books and Woodcuts in the Mongol Empire
Shih-shan Susan Huang

Elite Uighurs migrating from the Uighur homeland in Central Asia to China under the Mongol rule in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries played major roles as cultural middlemen of the Buddhist book culture. Drawing primary sources from Buddhist woodcuts excavated in Turfan, and epigraphic sources found in southeast and northwest China, this study highlights two individuals. Mengsusu (1206-1267) was a high-ranking official serving Kubilai Khan before the founding of the Yuan dynasty. Fragments of Buddhist frontispieces found in Turfan reveal Mengsusu’s sponsorship of the Buddhist printing in Beijing, and his family’s cultural adaptation of Mongolian material culture. The woodcuts were transmitted over long distance back to Central Asia due to his family’s tie to the Buddhist community in the Uighur homeland. The second case shifts to Yihemishi (ca. 1270s-1320s), a wealthy Uighur diplomat, navigator, merchant, who was also a fervent Buddhist donor. A broken stele dated 1316 and discovered in Quanzhou reveals his generous sponsorship of more than 100 temples in Yuan China housing the Buddhist Canon. This vast temple network expanded from the capital Dadu to Fuzhou and Gansu. Taken together with the Mongol postal system, the elite Uighurs’ network extending from China to the Uighur homeland in Central Asia, and to Buddhist countries in South and Southeast Asia can all shed light on how Buddhist books and woodcuts were circulated. Responding to the recent scholarship of spatial history and digital humanities, the study also plans to create a GIS “story map” which visualizes the interlocking networks.

Carving a Multicultural Empire on Stones: Juyongguan from a Trans-regional Perspective
Yong Cho

The Cloud Platform at Juyongguan, completed sometime between 1343 and 1345 under the imperial patronage of the Yuan court, is a major architectural monument located along the Great Wall near Beijing. For over a century, textual historians have noted unusual nature of the multilingual inscriptions on the interior walls of the building. The monument’s pictorial stone carvings, however, are as unusual. Covering the inner and outer surfaces of the monument are the shallow, surface-oriented carvings of complex Buddhist iconographies and ornaments. Simply put, the Juyongguan’s approach to sculptural form is unprecedented in the history of Chinese art, hinting at non-local influences.

This paper analyzes the elaborate sculptural program at Juyongguan from trans-regional perspective. Much like the multilingual inscriptions accompanying the monument, the stone carvings were products of a confluence of multiple artistic traditions that the Yuan governed, including Mongolian, Tibetan, Tangut, and Chinese visual cultures. The most striking, however, is the visual connection between the artistic traditions of the Yuan and Southeast Asia, suggested by the similarity of approaches to stone surface and figural forms as well as workmanship between the stone carvers at Juyongguan and those at the contemporaneous monuments of Angkor in present-day Cambodia. The connection, perhaps, is not so surprising, considering the commercial and political relationships the Yuan had in the region. The extant textual records, such as the one that the Yuan diplomat Zhou Daguan wrote after visiting Angkor in 1296-1297, suggest the possible exchanges of sculptural and architectural knowledge between these two places.

Paper on the Move in Mongol and Post-Mongol Eurasia
Yusen Yu

This paper focuses on the large-scale circulation and distribution of paper between different regions under Mongol rule and the succeeding dynasties from the 1300s to the 1500s. Based on Persian and Chinese primary sources and material-oriented studies, four types of paper, made in different places, will be investigated: Chinese paper, Korean paper, Baghdadi paper, and Samarqandi paper. The production and circulation of paper brought technical and aesthetic shifts in local artistic practice in the East and West Asia. In China, the extensive use of paper as painting ground coincided with the rise of literati painting; in the Islamic world, Baghdad and Samarqand became centers of paper production. Illustrated manuscripts, made of local and foreign paper, began to appear in greater number in monumental formats. Paper was on the move on a continental scale: the so-called Muslim paper (huihui zhi), introduced to China together with Islamic astronomy, was used in the annual making of the huihui li (or Muslim calendar) for the Yuan court. Chinese paper, especially gold-decorated paper with hand-painted images, transmitted through diplomatic contacts to Central Asia and Iran, was lavishly used in Persian manuscript production and decree writing. Korean paper, sought after by the Yuan and Ming courts and frequently used in painting practice by the literati, was also brought to Iran as writing material for diplomatic occasions. Locating itself in the “material turn” in historical research, this preliminary study sheds lights on the networks of paper circulation in pre-modern Eurasia.

Panni Tartarici (“Tartar Cloths”) and the Image of the Mongol Empire in Renaissance Italy
Eiren Shea

This paper investigates the cultural impact of the Mongol Empire, as reflected in Mongol textiles and dress, on Europe, and in particular, on Italy, in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. By focusing on panni tartarici, or “Tartar cloths,” as trading commodity and culturally significant object, I illuminate the impact that this elite Mongol product had on the arts of the period, and on the formation of identity by both elites and the rising merchant class in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. My focus here is on textiles preserved in European church treasuries and tombs (such as the alleged dalmatic of Pope Benedict XI) alongside pictorial representations of panni tartarici in religious paintings. The production of panni tartarici, which were produced in the Mongol Empire, is connected to nasij (one type of panni tartarici), lampas-woven “cloth of gold,” which was produced in both Yuan territories in East Asia and the Ilkhanate in West Asia.

To uncover the full significance of panni tartarici past their intrinsic value as luxury goods, I interrogate what the term “Tartar” meant in the early fourteenth century context, to whom it referred, and how this was connected to imaginaries of the Mongol Empire in Italy and Western Europe more broadly. By examining the term Tatar in this European context, I show how the desire for luxury commodities and the idea of the Mongol played crucial roles in the creation of the concept of self and other in fourteenth century Europe.

Title: The Impact of Trade on Daily Life in East Asia, 960-1600
Time and Date: Saturday, March 23, 2019, 11:15 am-1:00 pm
Panelists (alphabetical order): Valerie HANSEN (Professor, Yale), Yiwen LI (Assistant Professor, City University of Hong Kong; organizer), Peter SHAPINSKY (Associate Professor, U. Illinois, Springfield), Richard VON GLAHN (Professor, UCLA; discussant), Ezra VOGEL (Professor, Harvard; chair)

Panel Abstract
The last decade of research has completely up-ended our understanding of trade between China and Japan. Officially the two countries had suspended their formal relations after the last Japanese embassy in 838. But, in reality, the economies of the two countries became increasingly intertwined, so much so that by the late 1100s the Japanese were using coins minted in China as their primary currency. How did living in an interconnected world affect daily life?

In both China and Japan, people at all social levels consumed large quantities of aromatics from the Islamic world and Southeast Asia (Valerie Hansen). Chinese consumers had a love-hate relationship with Japanese folding fans (Yiwen Li). Between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, Japanese pirates developed practices of adopting the dress of other lands and their actions inspired rebellious denizens of other lands to dress as Japanese pirates (Peter D. Shapinsky).

The exposure to objects and practices from other cultures provided many opportunities: people enjoyed consuming foreign luxuries, delivered their political agendas via commenting on imported objects, and learned from the foreigners they came across. By investigating miscellaneous notes, poems, literature works, paintings, and transmitted and excavated objects, this panel examines how the objects and people that crossed borders played a role in people's daily lives in pre-modern East Asia and shaped their understandings of each other.

Chinese and Japanese Consumption of Incense Circa 1000
Valerie Hansen

Writing in 1000, Lady Murasaki portrays the life of uninterrupted leisure led by the super rich of Kyoto. The emperor, his courtiers, and court women consume large quantities of only one good from outside Japan: aromatics imported from the Islamic world and Southeast Asia, brought by Chinese merchants. When Genji plans a lavish party for his daughter the Akashi Princess, he decides to hold a contest for the person who can make the best fragrance, offering much detail about the types of incense the Japanese were importing, their containers, and their preparation. Across the Sea of Japan, the entire range of Chinese society consumed fragrant woods, tree resins, and incense, we learn from written sources, and consumption continued to increase in the following centuries. Some examples: Emperor Huizong (r. 1100-1126) ordered the lighting of hundreds of candles containing a chunk of aloeswood or camphor along with a piece of ambergris to intensify the fragrance. A Northern Song official steamed his sleeves in perfumed vapor every day before he came to work. And ordinary people snacked on musk-infused sugarcane at temple fairs. Surviving objects (including those made of incense), recovered from tombs or Buddhist crypts, offer information about the use of imported fragrance. The paper will examine how (or whether) material evidence supplements the information in textual sources.

Wind from Foreign Lands: Japanese Folding Fans in China, 1000-1410
Yiwen Li

In the early eleventh century, while the diplomatic relationship between China and Japan was suspended, a Chinese scholar-official saw a delicate Japanese folding fan at a temple fair in the capital Kaifeng. This folding fan was too expensive for him to afford, but he recorded his admirations in detail. Folding fans were Japanese inventions and first appeared in China during the Northern Song dynasty. They remained as rare and precious objects for centuries. Chinese literati were very keen on writing poems about the folding fans that they or their friends obtained from private traders or even Korean embassies. While the appreciation of Chinese objects in Japan has drawn much attention from modern scholars, we still know little about how the Chinese viewed Japanese objects. By investigating Chinese miscellaneous notes, poems, and paintings regarding folding fans from Japan, this study aims to show how the folding fans embodied the Chinese literati's imagination of Japan and how the Chinese view of Japan changed as relations between the Chinese and Japanese governments evolved. The increasing piracy in the late fourteenth century, however, led Zhu Yuanzhang, the founding emperor of the Ming, to criticize Japanese folding fans for their irregular shapes, which echoed with their king being immoral and the Japanese commoners being thieves. But after the tributary relationship was reestablished in 1400s, folding fans were among the most popular tributary gifts, and the Chinese considered folding fans sold by the Japanese as more authentic and valuable than those made in China.

Dressing like a Pirate: Clothing as Symbolic Marker in the East Asian Maritime World c. 1350-1600
Peter D. Shapinsky

In the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries. Japanese pirates controlled many of the sea-lanes linking the Japanese archipelago to the rest of the world. In the fourteenth century, they devastated Koryo Korea. In the sixteenth century they threatened Ming China as multiethnic assemblages based in western Japan and along the Chinese coast. This presentation examines evidence related to one part of Japanese pirates' material culture: their sartorial choices. Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Portuguese writers all ascribed to Japanese pirates distinctive appearances and the practice of dressing as people of another culture. For modern historians, these sources have helped fuel debates over whether these pirates were all Japanese or whether it is more accurate to consider them border-crossing, intercultural intermediaries. I consider Japanese pirates' choices in dress as symbolically rich social practices: part of a spectrum of survival strategies in the maritime world of East Asia, the product of hybrid societies expert in methods of organizing and communicating across cultural lines, and as performative practices made in dialogue with their representations by surrounding societies. Chinese and Korean authorities in particular used descriptions of Japanese pirates' flexibility in costume to signal the danger posed by those engaging in violence at sea and to code foreign seafarers as well as their own littoral peoples as threats to a fixed, agrarian social order. Pirates' successes with this sartorial shifting spawned imitation: rebellious denizens of the coasts of Korea and China in the same period adopted the look of Japanese pirates.

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