An Arabic-inscribed circular bronze box and cover. Ming dynasty. Photo Bonhams

Of large circular form, the cover cast with a central medallion enclosing an Arabic invocation within a circular border cast with continous foliate wavy scroll, the base cast with apocryphal Zhengde two-character mark. 23.8cm wide. (2). Estimate: HK$300,000 - 500,000, US$ 39,000 - 64,000. Unsold

明 梵字紋圓蓋盒 陽文「正德」篆書款

The inscription on this box is the bismallah, the formula which appears at the start of every sutra or chapter in the Qur'an, and appears on its own as a general religious phase "in the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful". It is inscribed in sini script, one of the Arabic scripts developed in China.

Sini is a Chinese Islamic calligraphic form for the Arabic script, developed in the early Ming dynasty. It can refer to any type of Chinese Islamic calligraphy, but is commonly used to refer to script with thick and tapered effects, such as on the current box. It is used extensively in mosques in Eastern China, and to a lesser extent in Gansu, Ningxia and Shaanxi. Early examples of the script date to the early Ming dynasty, notably the mihrab of the Niujue mosque in Beijing. The mosque itself was founded in 996 during the Liao dynasty, but rebuilt in 1442 during the Zhengtong era.


An Arabic-inscribed bronze quatrelobed incense burner. Late Ming dynasty. Photo Bonhams

Of quatrelobed form, rising steeply from four short sturdy feet up to a flat rim, cast to each side with a barbed cartouche enclosing Arabic invocations, flanked by a pair of ruyi-head handles, the base cast with apocryphal Xuande four-character mark. 20cm wide. Estimate: HK$80,000 - 120,000, US$ 10,000 - 15,000. Unsold

晚明 銅梵字紋爐 陽文「宣德年製」篆書款
Bonhams. FINE CHINESE ART, 25 May 2011 to 26 May 2011, Hong Kong, Island Shangri-La Hotel