World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


THE MONGOLS AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE MIDDLE EAST - 3/3: The Mongols and their Neighbours (474) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: FRI 23, 2.30-4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: University of Cambridge (United Kingdom)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Bruno De Nicola and Dr. Siddharth Saxena

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: This panel explores the diplomatic relationships between the Ilkhanate (Mongol dynasty of Iran) and its neighbouring states. Three approaches are here considered: First, the variety of languages required to communicate within a multi-lingual region is discussed in order to elucidate how this ties were constructed. Second, the relationship between the Mongols and the Christian Kingdom of Armenia and the discoveries of Persian subjects in far eastern Asia, will elaborate on the influence of Mongol rule in integrating the Middle East into the flux of exchanging commodities and ideas across Eurasia. Finally, the panel will try to give a tentative idea of the end of the Mongol empire in the region.

Chair: Prof. Josep Lluis Alay , University of Barcelona

Paper presenter: Dr. George Lane, SOAS, University of London, “The Phoenix Mosque and the Persian community of Hangzhou”
During the construction in the 1920s of the road which now encircles Hangzhou's famed West Lake, a large number of Muslim tombstones were unearthed from the site of what was once the royal Ju-jing Gardens and later Hangzhou's mediaeval Muslim cemetery. Fortunately the presence of the internationally renowned historian, the late Professor Bai Shouyi ensured that these tombstones did not end up re-cycled in the walls and pavements of the many villas and other fine buildings which now adorn the shores of Hangzhou's defining feature, its historical lake. Today along with five steles, one of which is written in Arabo-Persian and the others in Chinese, twenty of the tombstones are housed in a store room of Hangzhou's 1281 Phoenix Mosque where they have remained undisturbed and forgotten for a number of years now. Many of the well preserved tombstones are double-sided with both sides of the stone inscribed in beautifully crafted, distinctive calligraphy. Unfortunately not all the tombstones are identifiable by either name or date but those that are, reveal the denizens of the Ju-jing cemetery to be from diffuse backgrounds and origins. However most have Persian connections and all died in the first half of the fourteenth century. Here lay merchants from Isfahan and Semnan, a minister from the new capital, Khanbaliq, a Preacher from Persia, all united in death and their faith, many of them named martyrs in recognition of their death far from home.
The present paper springs from the study of these tombstones and the implications they suggest regarding the presence of Persians in Yuan China. The Persian community in Hangzhou expanded dramatically after the absorption of the Ilkhanate into the wider Toluid Empire. This paper will examine the nature of this community and the events in the 1250s Iran which resulted in the country’s welcome into the broader empire. As Hulegu Khan settled into his new capital in Maragheh, his new subjects began exploiting the potential of their new and welcome situation. With Persian fast replacing Uyghur as the lingua franca of the Toluid administration, Iranians swept eastward to fill the official posts opened up by the collapse of the Song regime and its replacement by the Yuan. Hangzhou encapsulated the impact and change witnessed elsewhere in China as that vast country adapted to the momentous events re-shaping much of the mediaeval world, directly or indirectly.
The decision by the notables of Qazvin and their supporters elsewhere in the country to pre-empt Mongke Khan and invite the Mongols to establish a royal presence, anchored Iran firmly to the East and severed with a decisive finality all remnants of Arab dominance of their country. Persian Hangzhou symbolised an Iranian resurgence and the Ilkhanate, an Arab demise.

Paper presenter: Ms. Na'ama O. Arnon, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, “Trails of Fire, Trails of Hope – the Mongols in four Mediaeval Hebrew Texts”
The Mongol invasion of the Middle East in the 13th century brought much change to the region – beginning with the destruction of the Khwarizm kingdom by Chinggis Khan, and later including the establishment of the Mongol Ilkhanid state by his grandson, Hülegü, on the shattered remains of the 'Abbasid Caliphate. These nomads of the steppe, alien in language and beliefs even to the nomadic habitants of the Middle East, were described in bitter words by the writers of the time. A plague-like people, wrote Thomas of Spalato in 1241; allies of Satan, according to Thomas Agni in Acre, 1260; Ibn al-Athir described countless dead in Merv, 1221, while Juzjani brought a messenger's report about human bones piled mountain high behind a conquered city, in 1215.
But a very different view appears in the Hebrew texts of the time. This paper would deal with four of them, composed in the 13th and 14th centuries. An eye witness, a rumor heard from afar, a Torah exegesis and an elegant philosophic essay – four sources that seem to have little connection to each other, and have not yet been studied as a whole. By placing them together, on the background of the Mongols' activities and the international developments of the time, I would like to attempt in this paper to trace the changing views of the Jewish writers toward the riders that came from the east.

Paper presenter: Dr. Andrew Peacock, British Institute at Ankara
“Islam in Mongol Anatolia: The Evidence of the Manuscripts of the Works of Ibn al-Sarraj”
Although for much of the Ilkhanate traditional views of the Mongol relationship with Islam, especially Sufism, have been revised in recent years, for Anatolia paradigms of Islamization first established by Köprülü in the early twentieth century have remained dominant. Yet the sources for the history of Islam in Mongol Anatolia have scarcely started to be exploited, in part because many of them remain in manuscript. This paper examines one of these neglected sources, the Tuffah al-Arwah and the related Tashwiq al-Arwah composed by Ibn al-Sarraj, qadi of Kahta in south eastern Anatolia in the first years of the fourteenth century. Ibn al-Sarraj’s works are invaluable sources for the activities and interaction of dervishes, babas, Türkmen and local elites, both in Anatolia and Syria, and cast fresh light on the religious developments of the period.

Paper presenter: Charles Melville, University of Cambridge, “The decline and fall of the Mongol Empire? – a long-term view”
This paper looks at the collapse of Il-Khanid (and to a lesser extent, Yüan) government in Iran (and China) with a particular emphasis on the competing sources of legitimacy for Mongol rule and the difficulty of reconciling them in the different political, cultural and geographical environments in which the Mongols established themselves. It will also consider evidence for the persistence of patterns of government, administration, religious practice and cultural activity that survived the immediate collapse of Chinggisid rule, which suggest that the solutions found to the problems of ‘nomadic’ rule in a ‘sedentary’ state were more durable, and therefore successful, than might be anticipated from the apparent ‘failure’ of the imperial Mongol regime.