ḠĪĀṮ-AL-DĪN NAQQĀŠ, a painter (naqqāš) active in Herat in about 822-30/1419-30, where he was in the employ of the Timurid Bāysonḡor b. Šāhroḵ. No Timurid author provides any personal details about his life, nor are his other names recorded. His fame derives from a rūz-nāma (diary) that he kept during a trip to the Ming court in China as one of Bāysonḡor’s envoys in a group that numbered more than 400 people, including 200 representing Šāhroḵ and 150 sponsored by Bāysonḡor (Ḥāfeẓ-e Abrū, II, p. 818-19; Maitre, p. 18). During the interval between the party’s departure from Herat on 6 Ḏu’l-qaʿda 822/24 November 1419 and its return on 11 Ramażān 825/29 August 1422, Ḡīāṯ-al-Dīn kept a record of points of interest along the route, the places and buildings they saw, the organization of cities, the power of rulers, and systems of government and administration that they encountered (Ḥāfeẓ-e Abrū, pp. 817-64). His vivid and circumstantial discussion of the manner in which the Chinese authorities treated the Timurid envoys, providing them with food, lodging, transportation, and even clothing, supplements the more bureaucratic Chinese sources on exchanges with foreign envoys and merchants (Ḥāfeẓ-e Abrū, pp. 822-31; Maitra, pp. 27-23; Serruys, pp. 373-75).

Ḡīāṯ-al-Dīn’s comments have been utilized both by art historians concerned with the relation of Timurid art to that of China and by historians studying foreign relations of the Ming dynasty, particularly the formal exchanges of envoys and gifts sponsored by the Ming emperors known as the “Tribute System,” by which foreigners who brought horses or other exotic goods to China were both lavishly entertained and given gifts in return, primarily silks and cash. Both official envoys and the merchants who often accompanied them were also permitted to engage in trade in China’s otherwise restricted markets (Ḥāfeẓ-e Abrū, pp. 839-43; Maitra, pp. 59-65). Prior to the critical publication of Hāfeẓ-e Abrū’s text in 1993, scholars had access to Ḡīāṯ-al- Dīn’s report primarily through three excerpted editions or translations. The first, published at Paris in 1843, forms part of Étienne Marc Quatremère’s edition and translation of ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Samarqandī’s Maṭlaʿ-e saʿdayn. The second, published at Lahore in 1934 by K. M. Maitra, is an edition and translation of the version contained in one manuscript of Ḥāfeẓ-e Abrū’s Zobdat al-tawārīḵ. The third, published in 1989, is a translation by Wheeler M. Thackston based on the versions contained in Mīrḵᵛānd’s Rawżat al-ṣafā and Kᵛāndamīr’s Ḥabīb al-sīar (IV, pp. 634-47).

Some modern authors have confused this Ḡīāṯ-al-Dīn with another Timurid painter, namely Ḡīāṯ-al-Dīn Pīr Aḥmad Zarkūb Tabrīzī, mentioned by the 16th century author Dūst Moḥammad, but such an equation is impossible because Pīr Aḥmad is said to have arrived in Herat only after the death of Bāysonḡor (836/1433), i.e., more than a decade after Ḡīāṯ-al-Dīn Naqqāš’s trip to China (Stchoukine, pp. 14-17; Karīmzāda, I, pp. 415-17). More plausibly, Ḡīāṯ-al-Dīn has been linked to a painter of the same name mentioned in a document of about 833/1430, who is adding the finishing touches to paintings in two manuscripts being prepared in Bāysonḡor’s library (Thackston, p. 323). Although it is possible that Ḡīāṯ-al-Dīn’s experiences on his trip to China may have affected either the content or the manner of his painting, there is, at present, no way to document such a result, because no works signed by him appear to have survived.


Ḥāfeẓ-e Abrū, Zobdat al-tawārīḵ, ed. S. K. Ḥājj Sayyedjawādī, Tehran, 2 vols., 1372 Š./1993, pp. 817-60; tr. K. M. Maitra as A Persian Embassy to China, repr., New York, 1970.

H. Lam Chan, “The Yung-lo Reign,” in F. W. Mote and D. Twitchett, ed., The Cambridge History of China VII/1: The Ming Dynasty 1368-1644, Cambridge, 1988, pp. 258-261.

M.-ʿA. Karīmzāda Tabrīzī, Aḥwāl o āṯār-e naqqašān-e qadīm-e Īrān wa barḵ-ī az mašāhīr-e negārgar-e Hend wa ʿOṯmānī, 3 vols., London, 1363-70 Š./1984-91, I, pp. 415-33.

A. Mazaheri, La route de la soie, Paris, 1983.

E. M. Quatremère, Notice sur l’ouvrage persan qui a pour titre: Matla-Assadain ou madjma-al bahrain et qui contient l’histoire des deux Sultans Shah-Rokh et Abou-Said, Notices et extraits des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque du Roi 14/1, 1834.

H. Serruys, Sino-Mongol Relations during the Ming II: The Tribute System and Diplomatic Missions (1400-1600), Mélanges Chinois et Bouddhiques 14, Brussels, 1967, pp. 26-27, 106, 242, 364-65, 369. 372-74. 444-45, 482-86.

I. Stchoukine, Les Peintures des manuscrits tîmûrides, Paris, 1954, pp. 14-17, 53.

W. M. Thackston, A Century of Princes: Sources on Timurid History and Art, Cambridge, Mass., 1989, pp. 279-97, 323.

(Priscilla Soucek)

Originally Published: December 15, 2001

Last Updated: February 9, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. X, Fasc. 6, pp. 599-600

Cite this entry:

Priscilla Soucek, “ḠĪĀṮ-AL-DĪN NAQQĀŠ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, X/6, pp. 599-600, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/gia-al-din-naqqas (accessed on 30 December 2012).