Ancient Art International

Ancient Chinese Warring States/Han Dynasty Lacquer Cup

Item Number: 20603
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Warring States Period, 476-221 BCE/Early Han Dynasty 221 BCE - 43 CE
6 1/2" (16.5 cm), 3 1/2" (6.5 cm)
Lacquered Wood
Excellent for 2000+ year old wood. The thin wood body shows results of contraction and is a good example of what uncontrolled drying can do to ancient lacquerware.
Present owner acquired it from an old English collection.


A very rare western Warring States or early Han Dynasty black and red lacquer ear-cup. This fine example is painted black on the outside and red on the inside as is common on most early lacquerware. The special feature of this rare example is the approximately 3/4" tall band of floral and oval paisley designs both inside and outside the upper rim and on the ears. The artist placed the crescent moon shaped ears on both sides of the cup to look like a pair of flying butterflies. A stunning and important version of this ancient Chinese art. Most likely from the Chu State used in ceremonial behaviors. The Chu inhabitants would take the cups filled with wine to the banks of streams to let them float down to the next person who would take them up to drink. The ears on the cups allowed good balance so that no wine was spilled!
It has been treated to museum standards to preserve the wood and prevent further contraction. This period from mid Warring States to Early Han Dynasty may be described as the first golden period of Chinese lacquer. The practise of sealing a tomb with charcoal and a special white clay preserved the burial objects, lacquer in particular, in near perfect condition.
Ear-cups such as this have been excavated from the Chu burials in Jiangling dated from mid to late Warring States period.
Ref. "Two Thousand Years of Chinese Lacquer" catalogue of an exhibition presented by the Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1993
Also: “Excellently Selected Historic Relics from Jiangling”, Editor Xu Zheng Cai, He Nu author, Jingzhou Museum, 1992

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