China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - A Yuan-period Mausoleum in Guyuan, Hebei

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Washington Room 1, Exhibit Level

A single-chamber brick structure, ten-meters-square in base dimensions, thirteen meters in height, and covered by a dome, rises on the grasslands about 7.5 meters southeast of the center of the town of Guyuan.  In eighteenth-century records, it is known by the names Shuzhuanglou (Comb and Make-up Tower) and Xiliangge (West Cool Pavilion).  The first name is a reference to the fact that it was part of the appanage of Empress Dowager Chengtian (932–1009) of the Liao dynasty. The second is a descriptive name that probably alludes to the fact that this location in Hebei near the border with Inner Mongolia is cooler than much of the rest of China. 


Excavation beneath the building in 2000 revealed three wooden coffins, one containing a male and the other females, clothing, and other artifacts including glazed ceramic tiles. The burial goods point to a Chinese tomb occupant, but the structure, all brick and of the dome-on-square style used for mausoleums in Samarkand and western Xinjiang from the tenth through fourteenth centuries, argues that this is the tomb of a Muslim. An argument also can be put forth that the tomb belongs to a Christian. This paper examines those possibilities, but argues that the strongest evidence is that the Guyuan tomb belongs to a man who converted to Islam in the early fourteenth century, and that its location was a key factor in the construction of the Yuan central capital between 1308 and 1311.

Nancy Steinhardt

University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania

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