Celadon Plate (B)
Chinese ceramics were widely admired and desired in the medieval world in general and the Islamic world in particular. The Chinese cared to export their ceramics throughout the world through land and sea. Dr. John Carswell describes the export of Chinese ceramics westward in his book “Blue and White Chinese Porcelain” (British Museum Press, 2007). Based on archaeological finds of large quantities in India, Iran, Turkey and some Near East countries (Syria included), it is clear that there was a large industry of Chinese ceramics designed specifically for international export. He explains this upsurge in commerce during the Islamic kingdoms as a result of the political union between the Near East and the Far East, particularly during the age of the Mongol Empire. Ceramic trade was occurring through the medieval maritime trade routes.
Muslim traders for Persia in particular were often moved and resided at Chinese ports and played a main role in the exporting of ceramic. It is remarkable that the exports include large ceramic objects designed specifically to suit the taste of the Muslims, as opposed to ceramics following the style that the Chinese liked for themselves. According to Carswell, small ceramic objects were restricted to the local Chinese markets while the large objects were for export.
The item presented here is a big plate of Celadon ware with Chinese flowers emerging in delicate shades in the center of the dish. The design is executed with carving the shapes before dipping the dish in the opaque green glaze and allowing the glaze to pool and darken in the incised designs. Furthermore, the object has been broken and is restored.
The medieval traveler Ibn Battuta writes in his book of travels “Tuhfat al-Nuzzar fi Gharaib al-Amsar wa ‘Ajaib al-Asfar” that: “In Damascus, there is a special endowment to restore Chinese plates.” This shows that Chinese plates were held in high regard and material value. He also records the existence of an Arabic job title, ‘al-Makhras’, as the person specialized in restoring Chinese ceramics.