KEY WORDS AND IDEAS
Silk Road, cultural exchange and trade, China and Iraq, calligraphy (kufic script), Abbasid caliphate, ceramics
LINK TO THE THEME OF THIS CHAPTER
This bowl, made in Iraq, is an example of the earliest Chinese-inspired vessels produced in the Near East.
In addition to being a functional object, a work like this also conveyed the social and cultural status of its owner. The person who bought or commissioned this bowl could afford luxury ceramics and appreciated them for their aesthetic qualities.
The white ground of this shallow bowl creates a stark contrast with the dark blue designs along the rim and in the center. The central calligraphic design consists of a single word, ghibta (happiness), repeated twice in kufic script.
When white wares from China arrived in the Abbasid domains (present-day Iraq and Syria) in the eighth century, potters were impressed by their translucent white surfaces. Although kaolin clay—the material used to create porcelain—was not available locally, Iraqi potters attempted to reproduce its visual effect and durability by covering the earthenware body of vessels with a layer of opaque white glaze. The white ground provided an ideal surface for decoration in any color, but the combination of blue and white was particularly popular.