In the mid 13th century, Genghis Khan’s empire expanded its influence from Korea to China, and through Central Asia to Russia and Eastern Europe. The Yuan Dynasty was established when China fell under Mongol rule in 1279. Tibet was made one of the administrative regions under the patronage and military protection of Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan.
The records in this collection comprise 22 invaluable original documents, including imperial edicts issued by the Yuan Emperors, religious edicts issued by the Imperial Preceptors and orders from Tibetan political rulers written in the Tibetan language and the rare Phags-pa script, a set of phonetic symbols invented by Phags-pa Lama. Phagspa script was used as a unified national script for writing the disparate languages including Mongolian, Chinese, Tibetan, Uighur, Turkic, etc. of different ethnic groups within the Yuen Empire. Its use was discontinued after the fall of the Yuan Dynasty in 1368.
These records possess unique historical value in illustrating the political system, economic situation, land grants and land use, culture and religion of Tibet. They offer significant information and evidence about the special status and power of the Tibetan monasteries, the different sects, the high-ranking lamas and their relations with and religious influence on the Mongol Empire. The records also testify that under Mongol sovereignty, the Mongol rulers were highly tolerant of the religion, political system and culture of Tibet, which brought about relative stability and development with lasting impact on Tibet today. The four Imperial Edicts in the collection are the only surviving official records written in Phags-pa script. Their intrinsic value is undeniable.