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Blue and White Porcelain Bowl with Arabic and Persian Calligraphy and Zhengde Reign Mark

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Period: Zhengde reign (1505–1521), Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Dimensions: Height: 12.2 cm; diameter: 27.5 cm

The bowl has a wide, flared rim, an arced basin, and a round base. A transparent glaze covers the interior and exterior except for the bottom, which could not be glazed while supporting the bowl during the firing process. The entirety of the piece is decorated in blue and white designs. The interior of the rim has a fret pattern. The design at the base is enclosed within two circles, inside of which is Arabic calligraphy that reads “Gratitude for His (Allah’s) grace” surrounded by interlaced branches. The exterior features panels with Persian calligraphy, which may be literally translated in order as “authority,” “king,” “eternity,” “every day,” “increase,” and “prosperity;” together they mean “King of eternal authority who blesses with prosperity that increases with each passing day.” The spaces between the panels are adorned with flowers. Near the base is a ring of stylized lotus-petal patterning. On the exterior of the base are six characters written in blue in regular script (kaishu, one of China’s major calligraphic forms) and divided into two rows that read “Crafted during the reign of the Zhengde Emperor of the Great Ming Dynasty;” the inscription is also surrounded by a double-lined circle.

Beginning in the Yongle reign (1402–1424), West Asian cultural elements, such as form and ornamentation, were commonly applied in the production of Chinese porcelain. During the Zhengde reign (1505-1521), Arabic and Persian calligraphy became popular forms of decoration on porcelain while serving as a new manifestation of the influence of West Asian culture.

Chinese entry by Shan Yingying
Website version edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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