Horse, Hawk and Saluki: Precious Animals as Diplomatic Gifts between Timurid Persia and Ming China
(University of Heidelberg)
Paper short abstract:
This essay discusses the gift exchange bettween Timurid Persia and Ming China during the fifteenth century, with an focus on the trancultural phenomenon of sending precious animals as diplomatic gifts in the early modern Eurasia.
Paper long abstract:
This essay discusses the gift exchange between Timurid Persia and Ming China during the fifteenth century, with a focus on the transcultural phenomenon of sending precious animals as diplomatic gifts in the early modern Eurasia. Since the fall of the Ilkhanids in the 1330s, Iran and Central Asia witnessed a renewed frequency of exchanges between Timurid dynasty (ca. 1370-1507) and Ming China (1368-1644). Sources of both sides record numerous diplomatic exchanges: Chinese missions reached Samarqand, Herat, Shiraz, Isfahan and Hormuz, while Timurid embassies traveled through the oasis towns of Central Asia to the imperial courts at Nanjing and Beijing. Among all the diplomatic gifts exchanged between Persia and China, precious animals played a remarkable part. Both courts in Persia and China were keen on collecting exotic animals in their royal gardens. For example, while precious Persian horses were always the favorite gifts for Chinese courts, Chinese Emperor Yongle also sent back hawks to Timurid Sultan Shahrukh as a signal of friendship. Moreover, these exotic animals became subjects of painting in both sides, and even the animal painting itself functioned again as precious gifts, which survive today in several Persianate albums (muraqqa) in Topkapi Library. This essay seeks to show how various exotic animals from foreign lands were viewed and conceived in the courts of Timurid Persia and Ming China.
Global gifts: material culture and diplomatic exchange in the Early Modern world