VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Cup
DUROM.1992.140
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Rhino horn was a rare commodity in China, highly prized for it assocations with long life and even immortality. This finely carved cup shows a Chinese scholar standing on a bridge above a waterfall. Scholars commanded great respect in China from the time of Confucius onwards. The hardworking scholar was seen as a symbol of self-discipline and diligence. Behind the scholar a long, coiling pine tree forms the handle of the cup and comes up over the rim. Like the scholar, pine also represented the quality of self-discipline.

History of the Object
The carving of rhinoceros horn was a complex process. The rough outer layer and base of the horn were removed, and the carver would then coat the chosen section of horn with oil, lanolin, clear lacquer or natural glue to prevent splitting or shrinkage. Next the carver would sketch the chosen design onto the horn in black ink. Chinese carvers became skilled in creating carvings that used as much as possible of the precious horn by producing designs that followed the shape of each individual horn. Carving would be carried out with chisels and gouges and once the design had been achieved it would then be polished to smooth out the tool-marks. Sometimes pieces were also dyed with natural dyes such as walnut, sepia or squid ink. Finally the piece would be polished to a high gloss.

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Type
Decorative Art 
Materials
Rhinoceros horn 
Measurements
height 11.5cm, width 14.5cm 
Creator name
Chinese 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
China 
Geography
China 
Time period
AD 17th century ~ AD 17th century 
Creation date
17th Century; Late Ming or Early Qing Dynasty 
Function
Libation cup: by the 4th Century CE rhino horn cups were said to have the ability to prevent death from poison. Poisoned wine placed in such a cup was said to bubble or foam revealing the presence of the toxin. 
Acquisition
Previously part of the Henry de Laszlo collection, this cup was a gift from Mrs Juliane von Hessert in 1992. 
Copyright
Copyright owned by Durham University Oriental Museum 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Owned by Durham University Oriental Museum 
Museum
Oriental Museum 
Credit line
Gift from Mrs Juliane von Hessert from the De Laszlo Collection 

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    AD 18th century ~ AD 18th century
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    AD 13th century ~ AD 14th century
  • Bowl
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    AD 10th century ~ AD 12th century
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