Genealogy and Status: Hereditary Office Holding and Kinship in North China under Mongol Rule

About the Book

By shedding light on a long-forgotten epigraphic genre that flourished in North China under the rule of the Mongol empire, or Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), this book explores the ways the conquered Chinese people understood and represented the alien Mongol ruling principles in their own cultural tradition. This epigraphic genre, which this book collectively calls “genealogical steles,” was quite unique in the history of Chinese epigraphy, for these steles were commissioned by northern Chinese officials under Mongol rule exclusively to record a family’s extensive genealogy, instead of the biography or achievements of an individual. The evolution of these steles delineates the way Mongols thoroughly recast the local elite stratum in North China who, while thinking of themselves as the heirs of traditional Chinese elite culture, fully accommodated to the principles of Mongol imperial rule and became one of its cornerstones in eastern Eurasia. Also, the rise of this epigraphic genre demonstrates that Mongol rule fundamentally affected how northern Chinese families defined, organized, and commemorated their kinship. Because most of these inscriptions are in Classical Chinese, they appear to be part of Chinese tradition. But in fact, they reflect a massive social change in Chinese society that occurred because of Mongol rule in China.

Tomoyasu Iiyama is Professor in the Faculty of Letters, Arts, & Sciences at Waseda University.

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