Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368)

See works of art
  • Belt Slide with a Falcon Attacking a Goose
    1991.483
  • Textile with Animals, Birds, and Flowers
    1988.296
  • Safe Conduct Pass (Paiza) with Inscription in Phakpa Script
    1993.256
  • Cosmological Mandala with Mount Meru
    1989.140
  • Panel with Phoenixes and Flowers
    1988.82
  • Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin Pusa)
    34.15.1a,b
  • Wang Xizhi Watching Geese
    1973.120.6
  • Groom and Horse
    1988.135
  • Bodhisattva
    51.166
  • Cup Stand with the Eight Buddhist Treasures
    2007.187
  • Incense Burner in Shape of Lion (one of a pair)
    34.113.2,3
  • Tray with Women and Boys on a Garden Terrace
    2015.500.1.31
  • Dish with Long-tailed Birds and Hollyhock
    2011.120.1
  • Twin Pines, Level Distance
    1973.120.5
  • Buddha of Medicine Bhaishajyaguru (Yaoshi fo)
    65.29.2
  • Vajrabhairava Mandala
    1992.54
  • Plate with Carp
    1987.10
  • Fisherman
    1989.363.33
  • The Simple Retreat
    2012.526.2

Works of Art (20)

Essay

During the Yuan dynasty, China—for the first time in its long history—was completely subjugated by foreign conquerors and became part of a larger political entity, the vast Mongol empire. Ironically, during this century of alien occupation, Chinese culture not only survived but was reinvigorated.

Lacking experience in the administration of a complex empire, the Mongols gradually adopted Chinese political and cultural models. Ruling from their capital in Dadu (also known as Khanbalik; now Beijing), the Mongol Khans increasingly assumed the role of Chinese emperors. During the 1340s and 1350s, however, internal political cohesion disintegrated as growing factionalism at court, rampant corruption, and a succession of natural calamities led to rebellion and, finally, dynastic collapse.

In spite of the gradual assimilation of Yuan monarchs, the Mongol conquest imposed a harsh new political reality upon China. As a group, the literati were largely ignored by the Mongols; those few who did enter government service often received only minor appointments, either as teachers in local schools or as low-level clerks. Southern Chinese, having resisted the Mongol invasion the longest, faced a conscious policy of discrimination, leading many scholars to withdraw from public life to pursue their own personal and artistic cultivation, often under the aegis of the Buddhist or Daoist religions. Drawing on the scholar-official aesthetic of the late Northern Song, Yuan literati painters no longer took truth to nature as their goal but rather used painting as a vehicle for self-expression. In the hands of highly educated scholar-artists, brushwork became calligraphic and assumed an autonomy that transcended its function as a means of creating representational forms.

Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

October 2001

Citation

Department of Asian Art. “Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/yuan/hd_yuan.htm (October 2001)

Related