«The bronze crosses – so called because of their overall cruciform shapes – measure between 3 cm and 8 cm in height and are symmetrical, featuring an outline in high relief and a loop on the back. Their flatness and loop suggest that they could have been pinned on the body as decorative ornaments or personal seals – the latter function further supported by the survival of red-coloured ink deposits in some of the designs, showing that the seals were used as chops to print unique designs on other surfaces, perhaps letters. Scholars also believe that the crosses could have been used as clan identification objects in Mongolian tribes, or symbols that differentiated between male and female clan members. Other theories suggest that the crosses could have been used superstitiously as magical chops to seal properties when owners were away.
… The crosses displayed in different categories also show different motifs and geometric patterns. One highly recognisable recurring motif is the swastika, a Buddhist symbol since the 1st century, which is often represented in the centre, forming hybrid symbols with the straight or rounded parts of the cross shapes. This use of the swastika in combination with the Christian motif of the cross was specific to the Nestorians in China. In other examples, bands that formally represent radiating beams connect the four arms of the cross, seemingly referencing the literary meaning of Jing Jiao in Chinese as ‘luminous religion’. Floral patterns, popular as motifs in Persian culture, are found in other crosses, while Chinese seal-like forms, including the popular form of the Chinese character gong (Text Box: ), recur on other designs, further showing the mix of cultural symbols incorporated into the designs of the artefacts. The animal-shaped motifs on some of the crosses stand out even more distinctly than the recognisable geometric patterns. Most of these motifs recall the shapes of birds – some single ones, others with two heads or pairs of intertwined wings and bodies. These birds are either spreading their wings, reinforcing the strict symmetry of the cruciform shapes, or showing no wings or feathers, confined in the centre of the crosses. While it might be tempting for viewers to think of the birds as white doves, symbolising the Holy Spirit in Christianity, there is no evidence that this iconography existed in Eastern Christianity and Nestorianism in China. Rather, the single bird motif could have been meant as an eagle, a religious symbol for Mongolians who worshipped the sky. The two-headed birds could also have been Buddhist symbols of fire and light, while the double birds with turning heads conform to a popular motif in Persian art at that time».
The Mongol Empire by Timothy May.
A comprehensive survey of the Mongol Empire – the largest contiguous empire in history
As the largest contiguous empire in history, the Mongol Empire looms large in history: it permanently changed the map of Eurasia as well as how the world was viewed. As the empire expanded, the Mongols were alternately seen as liberators, destroyers, and harbingers of apocalyptic doom. At the same time, they ushered in an era of religious tolerance and cross-cultural transmission.
This book explores the rise and establishment of the Mongol Empire under Chinggis Khan, as well as its expansion and evolution under his successors. It also examines the successor states (Ilkhanate, Chaghatayid Khanate, the Jochid Ulus (Golden Horde), and the Yuan Empire) from the dissolution of the empire in 1260 to the end of each state. They are compared in order to reveal how the empire functioned not only at the imperial level but how regional differences manifested.
«In Forging the Golden Urn, Max Oidtmann ventures into the polyglot world of the Qing empire in search of the origins of the golden urn tradition. He seeks to understand the relationship between the Qing state and its most powerful partner in Inner Asia—the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism. Why did the Qianlong emperor invent the golden urn lottery in 1792? What ability did the Qing state have to alter Tibetan religious and political traditions? What did this law mean to Qing rulers, their advisors, and Tibetan Buddhists? Working with both the Manchu-language archives of the empire’s colonial bureaucracy and the chronicles of Tibetan elites, Oidtmann traces how a Chinese bureaucratic technology—a lottery for assigning administrative posts—was exported to the Tibetan and Mongolian regions of the Qing empire and transformed into a ritual for identifying and authenticating reincarnations. Forging the Golden Urn sheds new light on how the empire’s frontier officers grappled with matters of sovereignty, faith, and law and reveals the role that Tibetan elites played in the production of new religious traditions in the context of Qing rule».