On their journeys, traveling merchants were exposed to different peoples, places, and cultures. In addition to the commodities they traded in bulk, they often acquired luxury items, such as textiles, rugs, and metalwork—goods that were admired and subsequently copied in areas far from their source. Islamic motifs, such as arabesques, were disseminated in this way and began to appear on Chinese-made textiles, marble carvings, and ceramic vessels. Likewise, Chinese styles and materials influenced objects made in the Islamic world. Among these are ceramic vessels that were inspired by Chinese porcelain. The study of these ceramics, excavated in large numbers in the Near East and in China, traces the history of artistic exchange and helps us understand how trade facilitated artistic interconnections between two distant regions.
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