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Saucer dish from China

Decorated with Arabic inscriptions from the Qur’an and Islamic Creed in overglaze turquoise-blue and black enamels, this saucer dish belongs to a type of provincial Chinese export porcelain known as Zhangzhou ware or swatow ware. Less refined than the porcelains produced at Jingdezhen, it was mass-produced in independent kilns to the south of Zhangzhou (modern-day Pinghe county, Fujian province) from the late sixteenth to mid-seventeenth centuries, and exported to Japan, South-east Asia (Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei) and, in much smaller quantities, to Europe. Since dishes of this type are commonly found in Indonesia – where they were used for serving food at traditional feasts and kept as treasured heirlooms – and their design may be based on the Indonesian royal Nine-fold seal, it has been suggested that they were ordered by the sultans of Aceh (north-west Sumatra). Whilst this may be true for most, the present dish includes an inscription that states it was made for Fantad Khan, servant of Akbar Kahn, third Mughal Emperor (1556–1605), which indicates an Indian connection.

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