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Vase with Arabic Inscriptions

Gift exchange, tribute, the spread of religion, and overland as well as maritime trade were major transmitters of motifs, designs, and techniques between China and the Roman Empire, Iran, and India. Primary goods, such as medicinal herbs, spices, animals (especially horses), animal products, ores, and metals traveled east to China, while silk products, ceramics, metal wares, paper, printed texts, and mint coins traveled west.

Certain objects draw attention to the resettlement of merchants and communities in foreign lands, such as the Muslim merchants from the Middle East and Central Asia who settled in China's Fujian Province during the Tang and Song periods and continued to immigrate there under the Mongol Yuan emperors. Objects with Islamic inscriptions such as this Qing vase—inscribed "Insha'allah [The Will of God]," "Ghudrat-allah [The Power of God]," and "Ni'mat-allah [The Grace of God]"—may have been made for this Chinese Muslim community.

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