Title:Belt CaseArtist:Artist UnknownDate:Yuan dynastyCreation Place:Asia, ChinaCredit Line:Gift of Ruth and Bruce DaytonAccession Number:96.49.1a,b
This exquisitely crafted case would have been suspended from the belt, a custom introduced to China by the peoples of the northern steppes. The design is different on each of the two faces. One side shows octagonal cartouches decorated with lotus flowers and scrolling leaves. The opposite side has oval panels decorated with a wealth of Buddhist images such as the conch shell and the wheel of the law. The Mongols, who ruled China from 1280-1368, adopted the Tibetan style of Buddhism, which features the conch, wheel, umbrella, and unending knot symbols seen here. The new Mongol rulers naturally maintained aspects of their traditional dress, including cases such as this that hung from their belts and could have held a writing brush or personal chopsticks.