A Rare Yongzheng Famille Rose Teabowl and Saucer Depicting ‘The Cup Game’ c.1730

A finely potted Yongzheng Famille Rose teabowl and saucer c.1730. The thinly potted export porcelain teabowl and saucer is enamelled using a subdued Famille Rose palette with a scholarly Chinese subject called ‘The Orchid Pavilion Gathering’ or ‘Cup Game’.


The teabowl has a fine crack which has been sealed. The saucer has a small amount of wear.
Diameter : 10.5 cm (4 1/8 inches)
A Private English Collection.
Stock number



The Orchid Pavilion Gathering or Cup Game :

The Orchid Pavilion Gathering depicts a literary convocation in celebration of the annual Spring Purification Festival. This festival, one of the oldest Chinese customs, took place each year on the third day of the third moon. Such activity was perhaps derived from ancient bathing customs in China. Lacking the convenience of modern plumbing, people could rarely afford to bathe during the winter. By springtime, when the weather became warm, a day was designated for all to bathe in the river.

To mark this occasion men of the educated classes traditionally held elegant parties at a scenic spot near water. The scholars played a special drinking game that incorporated a poetry competition. Servants would fill small cups with wine, set them on large leaves and place them in a stream. The cups then floated down toward the scholars, who sat on the banks. Those unable to provide suitable verse had to take a cup from the stream and drink the contents before resuming the game.

The setting of Sheng Mao-yeh‘s painting is an actual event held by 41 scholars who joined a Spring Purification gathering in 353 C.E. It took place at Lan-t‘ing (the Orchid Pavilion) in Shao-Hsing, Chekiang province. This party has for generations captured the imagination of artists of all kinds and is depicted not only in fine art, but also in popular decorative art such as lacquer ware, bamboo carvings and even snuff bottles.

This historical gathering is especially revered because of the presence of a distinguished guest: the legendary calligrapher Wang His-chih (371-79). Wang is considered the great sage of calligraphy and even today students strive to emulate his work. Inspired by the fine wine, the idyllic setting, the weather and the company during the celebration, Wang composed a preface to the anthology of the guests‘ collected poems. This piece, entitled Lan-t‘ing hsu or The Orchid Pavilion Preface, includes a rhapsodic description of the gathering and surroundings as well as a sentimental lament for the fleeting world. Enlivened by his superb calligraphy, Wang‘s preface is, even today, considered one of the classics of Chinese literature.


From :

Michigan Publishing, a division of the University of Michigan Library.
For more information please contact mpub-help@umich.edu.
Print ISSN: 1074-9055 Online ISSN: 1558-741X