Cup in the Shape of a Lotus Leaf

Tags: jades | Ming dynasty | National Palace Museum | Sung dynasty | vessel


Sung to Ming Dynasties (10th-17th c.)
Total height: 9.5 cm, length: 15.2 cm, width: 6.0 cm, weight: 225.0 g 
With the exception of the base, where the original yellowish-green color can be made out in places, this jade cup is almost totally a brownish yellow, with the occasional grey-white mottling and a russet red that follows the lines of an inscription. It is this last feature that suggests the cup has been dyed. The shape is of a dried lotus leaf, with crinkled edges, curling up on itself in a triangular fashion with veins on the external surface rendered in intaglio lines. The stalk follows the outline of the leaf working its way from the center of the base to the side of the cup, a feature that not only adds to the interest of the design, but also serves a utilitarian function as a handle. This feature is similar to that found on a white jade cup unearthed from the Shih Sheng-tzu tomb dating to the Southern Sung dynasty (1127-1279) in Ch’ü-chou, Chekiang province, although this cup exhibits a higher degree of technique than that found in the Ch’ü-chou example. The cup also comes with a rosewood stand, also carved, in a multi-layered openwork design, to resemble lotuses, further enhancing the beauty of the cup. The Northern Sung scholar and poet Su Tung-p’o (Shih, 1036-1101) once said that a morning drink was akin to lubricating one’s studies, an allusion to the scholar who needs to press on with his studies despite lack of recognition. It is perhaps in this frame of mind that Ch’en Hung-shou (1599-1652) of the Ming dynasty treated the subject of a “morning drink” in his work “Sixteen Views on Reclusion”, also in the collection of the National Palace Museum. In this painting, he has Su Tung-p’o sitting on a wooden chair holding a jade cup very much like this one and looking resolute in the face of adversity.

Text and images are provided by National Palace Museum