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The Mongols in China
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China, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), 14th century
Inner Mongolia Museum, Hohhot
cat. 205
[click images for full object view]

Cenotaph Cenotaph

China, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), 14th century

This cenotaph, or grave marker, which was found near the city of Chifeng in Inner Mongolia [map], demonstrates the presence of Muslims among the upper echelons of Chinese society under the Yuan dynasty.

Dramatic clouds and large peonies fill the larger bands on the sides, vegetal scrolls with peonies and lotuses are carved inside narrower bands below, and lotus or peony flowers seen from above are shown in the vertical bands at both ends of the cenotaph. The top is also decorated with dense vegetal patterns.   Cenotaph

The head of the cenotaph, below a lobed arch with a lotus flower at its apex, is inscribed in slender Arabic script with the Shahada, the Muslim profession of faith: “There is no god but God (Allah). Muhammad is the messenger of God (Allah).”

The inscription was not carved in relief like the rest of the decoration, suggesting that the cenotaph was originally made for an unknown customer and subsequently customized for a Muslim patron.   Cenotaph
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