20. Christian Headstone with Canopy
Yuan dynasty (1272—1368)
Quanzhou Maritime Museum
Ricci 20 KP 020 Z24
A canopy or parasol was used in ancient India to protect kings and other royals from the sun, and it subsequently became a symbol of power and prestige. It was natural to use a canopy in association with the Buddha as he had been a prince before attaining enlightenment. It can be seen in the early Buddhist art of India, and was transmitted to Central Asia and China where it appears, for example, at Dunhuang. A similar canopy to the one shown on this tombstone can be seen on a panel relief on the Eastern pagoda of the Kaiyuan Temple in Quanzhou, completed about 1250.
The discovery of the canopy’s presence on Christian tombstones of the Mongol period is quite remarkable, and yet explicable in the context of the multiculturalism of Quanzhou. The canopy has tassels or streamers dangling from it and protects the cross emerging from an open lotus flower.