Nestorian Crosses of the Yuan Dynasty
University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong
Nestorian bronze crosses were cast in the Ordos region in northwest China (Inner Mongolia) during the Yuan dynasty (1272 - 1368). They measure between 3 and 8 cm in height, are flat plaque-like ornaments with an outline in high relief and have a loop on the back suggesting that they were used a personal seals and were worn on the body. The loop facilitates a strapping to human clothing or girdles. The fine motifs of the cast Christian and Buddhist symbols and the rare survival of red-coloured ink deposits in intermittent lower parts of the design, suggest that these seals were used as chops and transferred their individual designs by printing them on other matters. Although all crosses are cast, a process employed for the repeated production of an exact same size and design, the Nestorian crosses all seem to be unique and are, in fact, characteristic for their individual designs.
The University of Hong Kong's collection of Nestorian crosses was assembled by a Mr. F. A. Nixon who served as a British postal commissioner in Beijing in the 1930s and 1940s. Subsequently the collection was acquired by the Lee Hysan Foundation and donated to Hong Kong University in 1961. Today's extensive re-display is generously sponsored by the HKU Museum Society.
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