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Genealogy and Status

Genealogy and Status

Hereditary Office Holding and Kinship in North China under Mongol Rule

Tomoyasu Iiyama

ISBN 9780674291294

Publication date: 02/07/2023

By shedding light on a long-forgotten epigraphic genre that flourished in North China during the Mongol Empire, or Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), Genealogy and Status explores the ways the conquered Chinese people understood and represented the alien Mongol ruling principles through their own cultural tradition. This epigraphic genre, which this book collectively calls “genealogical steles,” was quite unique in the history of Chinese epigraphy.

Northern Chinese officials commissioned these steles exclusively to record a family’s extensive genealogy, rather than the biography or achievements of an individual. Tomoyasu Iiyama shows how the rise of these steles demonstrates that Mongol rule fundamentally affected how northern Chinese families defined, organized, and commemorated their kinship. Because most of these inscriptions are in Classical Chinese, they appear to be part of Chinese tradition. In fact, they reflect a massive social change in Chinese society that occurred because of Mongol rule in China.

The evolution of genealogical steles delineates how local elites, while thinking of themselves as the heirs of traditional Chinese culture, fully accommodated to Mongol imperial rule and became instead one of its cornerstones in eastern Eurasia.


  • Perhaps the most striking feature of Genealogy and Status is its extraordinary command of epigraphic materials. …The appendices…represent a wealth of information in themselves and will no doubt become an indispensable epigraphic reference for anyone interested in north China during the Jin and Yuan periods. Of course, Genealogy and Status is not just an epigraphic compendium, but also a fine-grained consideration of elite formation, office-holding, and kinship in northern China. This book is a most welcomed addition to the study of north China under Mongol rule.

    —David Robinson, Journal of Chinese History


  • Tomoyasu Iiyama is Professor in the Faculty of Letters, Arts, and Sciences at Waseda University.

Book Details

  • 388 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center