Authentic Artefact: Paiza (Spoilers)

  • Before We Begin ..


My Dear Readers! Here is the reason I post Spoiler Warnings. It is all with you in mind! 

It is out of direct courtesy I post my spoiler tags in order “Not” to spoil the game for anyone who has not played it. I also do not like writing generic reviews free of the meat of the story. Too many times I have written the “Spoiler Free” variety and I am always asked to write a spoiler piece. The reasons were invariably the same: “Where’s the meat?!” The best way to approach spoilers is with respect as so many professional sites and journalists do. they warn you about them. They tag them, they leave blurbs about them to make sure you as the respected fan shan’t receive the story blown for you by spoilers with no warning. I call them “Rude Spoilers” verses “Considerate Spoilers with warnings” Mine are“considerate spoilers.” You as the fan have the warning on my site and the control to look away or jump in head first. It is your decision. Now with all this behind us:


What I enjoy about Tomb Raider in many ways is the archaeological element running through each game. Though true, if Lara were real and an archaeologist I highly doubt she would kick ancient pots and plough through dig sites with little regard for the history she was trampling. However, when Tomb Raider gets it right, it is quite fascinating. One such interesting item I saw among others in Rise of the Tomb Raider was this Paiza Lara discovers on her journey. I knew it as soon as I saw it that it was modelled on an actual one I have seen.

This one is a photo taken from my phone, so perhaps due to the clarity, or perhaps it is, in fact, devoid of any writing it is in the likeness of the real world Paiza below minus the script. After reading about the rich history of the text found on the actual Paiza, you will understand how the motif of this artefact was greatly influenced by Tibetan concept. .

This is a八思巴文鐡牌 Safe Conduct Pass. The inscription on the face is done in a Mongolian script known as Phakpa. This script was created during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) so; this Paiza is indeed from the 13th century. This beautiful piece of metalwork craftsmanship is composed of iron with a silver inlay.

The History

The outward appearance of this piece adorned with the animal mask is reminiscent of the Tibetan mirror used for reflecting evil. The man behind the script on this lovely piece was Chogyal  Phakpa (Phagpa) He was born in 1235 and led the school of Tibetan Buddhism known as Sakya. Furthermore, Phagpa became the first vice-king of Tibet and held a high political influence. Additionally, Phagpa acted as the spiritual advisor to Kublai Khan, who ruled the Mongol Empire and the Yuan Dynasty. It was after Kublai Khan became the ruler of the Mongols and later the Emperor of China that he appointed Phagpa as the Imperial Preceptor. It was during this time that Phagpa initiated a political theology politics centring on the relationship between state and the religion of the Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhist world. These where the wheels in motion that allowed for the priest-patron relationship that Kublai Khan supported and this resulted in Phagpa establishing himself and his sect the preeminent political power in Tibet.


It was shortly after this development that Kublai Khan commissioned Chogyal Phagpa to create a type of hybrid script to unify the multilingual Yuan Dynasty. So, Phagpa revised the Tibetan handwriting resulting in the dawning of several new characters called “Phags-pa script” the script characters were complete in 1268.

The Phagpa script became the official Mongol language of the Empire by the authorisation of Kublai Khan. However, his efforts to adopt the language further into China during his imperial reign failed. His envisioned goal was to replace the Chinese Uyghur script and ideogrammes with Phagpa script. However, the populace rejected the long-term replacement of Chinese to Mongol, so his dream never culminated completely. The result of this was a few texts were produced in Phagpa script rendering items found featuring this script relatively rare.

The writing found on the Paiza from the museum here says: “By the strength of Eternal Heaven, an edict of the Emperor [Khan]. He who has not respect shall be guilty.”

 From the game:

My Phone capture of the Paiza from Rise of the Tomb Raider. Image Credit: Crystal Dynamics taken by me.

Also, reflecting what Lara says about the Paiza briefly when she finds it. “A Paiza, a sort of passport. Whoever held this spoke with the authority of the Mongol Empire.” This object is also found under the category: Mongol Invasion. So, my point is the development team did their job researching artefacts that would be classified from that period, further adding to the actual archaeological nature of Tomb Raider. That is the reason I am such a fan. This is the reason I shall always be a fan of Tomb Raider.

You can find more information about this Paiza here at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.       

Thank you for viewing. Until we meet again!







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