«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».