Event Title

Tombstones as Witnesses: A Cross-cultural Study on the Yangzhou Latin Tombstones

Presenter Information

Mengtian Bai, Oberlin CollegeFollow

Location

King Building 243

Start Date

4-27-2018 1:00 PM

End Date

4-27-2018 2:20 PM

Abtract

In 1950s, two fourteenth-century tombstones with Latin inscriptions were discovered in Yangzhou, China, a port city described by the Italian adventurer Marco Polo as a city of wonders. Both tombstones were made for an Italian merchant family. The tombstones bear Christian iconography such as the Last Judgment, the Virgin and Child and the martyrdom of St. Catherine of Alexandria, while non-western details are represented as well, including the Mongol garments, Chinese furniture and Islamic and Nestorian gravestones. My research considers the dynamic matrix of various religious and ethnic groups, which concomitantly arrived in Yuan Dynasty China under an overarching control of the Mongol Empire. By valorizing the pictorial language on the tombstones, I will illustrate how Christian iconography on the tombstones reflects the material influence from diverse cultural groups and how the pictorial language reveals the social interactions during the pluralistic Yuan Dynasty. Given the lack of primary textual evidence directly related to the Yangzhou Latin tombstones, my study aims to reconstruct the contextual situation of the tombstones by assembling and interweaving fragmentary historical and visual information. My cross-cultural study attests to the potential of images in articulating their own circumstances and the mobility and elasticity of Christian iconography in a foreign cultural setting.

Keywords:

cultural exchange, Christianity in China, Christian iconography, The Yuan Dynasty

Notes

Session III, Panel 9 - Cross-Cultural | Languages
Moderator: Kirk Ormand, Nathan A. Greenberg Professor of Classics

Major

Art History; Latin Language and Literature

Advisor(s)

Erik Inglis, Art History

Project Mentor(s)

Erik Inglis, Art History
Bonnie Cheng, Art History

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Apr 27th, 1:00 PM Apr 27th, 2:20 PM

Tombstones as Witnesses: A Cross-cultural Study on the Yangzhou Latin Tombstones

King Building 243

In 1950s, two fourteenth-century tombstones with Latin inscriptions were discovered in Yangzhou, China, a port city described by the Italian adventurer Marco Polo as a city of wonders. Both tombstones were made for an Italian merchant family. The tombstones bear Christian iconography such as the Last Judgment, the Virgin and Child and the martyrdom of St. Catherine of Alexandria, while non-western details are represented as well, including the Mongol garments, Chinese furniture and Islamic and Nestorian gravestones. My research considers the dynamic matrix of various religious and ethnic groups, which concomitantly arrived in Yuan Dynasty China under an overarching control of the Mongol Empire. By valorizing the pictorial language on the tombstones, I will illustrate how Christian iconography on the tombstones reflects the material influence from diverse cultural groups and how the pictorial language reveals the social interactions during the pluralistic Yuan Dynasty. Given the lack of primary textual evidence directly related to the Yangzhou Latin tombstones, my study aims to reconstruct the contextual situation of the tombstones by assembling and interweaving fragmentary historical and visual information. My cross-cultural study attests to the potential of images in articulating their own circumstances and the mobility and elasticity of Christian iconography in a foreign cultural setting.