2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

The Myth of the Seal Transmitting the State in the Yuan and Qing Dynasties

Kai-lung Ho

Lecturer, Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Community CollegeSchool of Humanities and General Education, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

The Precious Jade Seal or the Seal Transmitting the State (傳國璽chuanguo xi or ch’uan-kuo hsi) of the Qin dynasty was a strong legitimate symbol of the Chinese dynasties. The Mongol-Yuan dynasty (13-14th  century), the Northern Yuan Mongols (14-17th century), and the Manchu-Qing dynasty also participated this myth. Seal with Chinese character was accepted as a political symbol by the Mongol-Yuan Empire. The edicts of the Yuan emperors preserved in the Tibet were all stamped with the Emperor Seal “yu qian zhi bao” (御前之寶 yü ch’ien chih pao, Seal in front of the Emperor) in Chinese folded seal character. On the other hand, after the Qubilai Qan’s death, the 2nd Yuan Emperor Temür got the new rediscovered Seal Transmitting the State to ensure his legitimacy. After the Mongols went back the Steppe, their leaders still kept the Seal Transmitting the State and showed their legitimacy towards the Chinese Ming dynasty. And the non-Chinggis blooded tribe leaders got the Seal Transmitting the State to justify their ruling. During the late 16th century, Altan Qan of the Tümed Mongol supported a political theory of the Tibetan Buddhism named the “two principles”. And he claimed that the “two principles” had been already carried out by Qubilai Qan and he followed Qubilai Qan’s way to promote the Tibetan Buddhism. As a result, Altan Qan raised his political status and got independent of the Čaqar Mongol who was the chief leader of all the Mongols. During the first half of the 17th  century, the Seal Transmitting the State was rediscovered, and Legdan Qan of the Čaqar Mongol used this Seal to prove himself the legitimate ruler of the whole Mongols. The Manchu Emperor Hong Taiǰi conquered the Čaqar Mongol and got the Seal Transmitting the State. With this Seal, Hong Taiǰi claimed he got the Mandate of Heaven, and then he founded the Qing dynasty and ascended the Emperor. However, on the edicts of Hong Taiǰi, the seal marks of this so-called Seal Transmitting the State are “zhi gao zhi bao” (制誥之寶 chih kao chih pao, Seal of Edict) which were not the same Chinese words made by the Qin dynasty. And the Chinese seal character of this Seal is not in the folded style of the Yuan dynasty, but it is the same as the Ming Emperor seal. Indeed this so-called Seal Transmitting the State was made by Legdan Qan. In the memory of the 17th century Mongols, they could only remember that the Yuan Emperor got a Chinese character seal called Seal Transmitting the State which was the legitimate symbol. Therefore, Legdan Qan used a Ming seal as the model and made a fake of the Seal Transmitting the State. The fake of the Seal Transmitting the State and the fake of the history of the “two principles” were all the political means carried out by the Mongols and the Manchus.


Keywords: Seal Transmitting the State (chuanguo xi or ch’uan-kuo hsi), folded seal character, yu qian zhi bao (yü ch’ien chih pao), zhi gao zhi bao (chih kao chih pao), Ligdan Qan, Hong Taiǰi, Altan Qan, the two principles, legitimacy, symbol