Robing in the Mongolian Empire

  • Thomas T. Allsen
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In recounting the enthronement of Chinggis Qan (reigned 1206–1227), the historian Hayton (Het’um), a prince of Lesser Armenia long in Mongolian service, says that in those early days they made do with “black felt” because they had no “fairer cloth [drap].” Very soon, however, the Mongols enthusiastically embraced a much fairer cloth of state. Indeed, this textile became closely identified with the Mongols and its fame spread across Eurasia from the Far East to the Far West, where it was known as “Tartar cloth” in the languages of Europe.2 From direct examination of garments designated as panni tartarici in early church inventories, we know that this was a drawloom textile mainly made of gold and silk thread.3 In the Middle East, the same cloth was usually called nasij, a shortened form of the Arabic nasij al-dhahab al-harir, literally “cloth of gold and silk.”4 In the Chinese sources of this period nasij is encountered in the transcription na-shi-shi, which on two occasions the Yuan shi defines as “gold brocade [jinjin].”5


Fourteenth Century Silk Thread Yuan Dynasty Occupational Background Chinese Source 
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© Stewart Gordon 2001

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  • Thomas T. Allsen

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