An alabaster quatrefoil dish
Tang dynasty, 618–907, China
唐 618-907 中國
Height: 6 cm, 2.4 inches - Width: 23.8 cm, 9.4 inches
高6釐米 - 寬23.8釐米
This dish is a perfect example of the cultural cross currents that were so prevalent in China during the Tang period. The silk route was entering one of its high points at this time – with trade flowing along the arteries between East and West. The merchants were importing exotic goods – medicines, wines, spices, and other luxuries such as metal and jewellery. In this cosmopolitan environment, the resulting exchange of ideas, influenced many areas of life – including the decorative arts, where new shapes and inspirational designs were enthusiastically received.
The alabaster dish is carved in the form of four plain acanthus leaves organised in the form of a cross, and supported on four rectangular feet carved with a rope design and pierced with a central hole. It was used most probably for offerings and would, therefore, have been accompanied by a set of cups – as in the known examples that exist in glazed terracotta of the same period.