Safe Conduct Pass (Paiza) with Inscription in Phakpa Script

Period: Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)

Date: late 13th century

Culture: China

Medium: Iron with silver inlay

Dimensions: H. 7 1/8 in. (18.1 cm); W. 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm)

Classification: Metalwork

Credit Line: Purchase, Bequest of Dorothy Graham Bennett, 1993

Accession Number: 1993.256


The openwork inscription on this circular plaque has been filled with silver to the extent that the characters project from the surface of the plaque on both sides; the inscription on the reverse is thus inverted. The type of script—used early on to write the Mongol language—is named for its inventor, Phakpa (1235–1280), the Tibetan monk and scholar who served as the imperial preceptor for the Mongol court during the reign of Khubilai Khan (1215–94). The inscription reads, “By the strength of Eternal Heaven, an edict of the Emperor [Khan]. He who has not respect shall be guilty.” The form of the pass (paiza), with its animal mask decoration, is similar to that of a Tibetan mirror for reflecting evil.