A Chinese lotus-form trick cup decorated with famille verte enamels on the biscuit. Kangxi period

“Trick cup”, also know as « porcelain surprise », « Gong Dao Bei », « don`t be greedy cup », « fairness cup » or  « puzzle cup » with the central figure of Han Zhongli, one of the eight immortels. Modeled in the form of a lotus leaf and supported on three small feet. The leafy veins are finely incised and a textured stalk is applied to the underside.

Period :
Kangxi (1662-1722)
3.34 in. (8.5 cm / diameter)
Reference :


A private Parisian collection of the second half of the XXe century

Related works

One cup, probably in green is illustrated by Stephen W. Bushell and William M. Laffan in Catalogue of The Morgan Collection of Chinese Porcelain, New York, 1907, p. 62.

One cup of this form is in the collection of Marie Vergottis, (Fondation de l’Hermitage / Lausanne) in aubergine and turquoise glazed is published by John Ayers in The Chinese Porcelain Collection of Marie Vergottis, 2004, no. 194.


About tricks cups and how they work, see Chinese Puzzles, Games for the Hands and Mind, Traditional Chinese Puzzles from the Yi Zhi Tang Collection, Wei Zhang and Peter Rasmussen, Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, 2008, pp. 76-77.

This cup illustrate the classical Chinese paradigm that modesty brings gain and arrogance results in loss. If you fill the cup to the top, taking more than your share, every drop will drain out onto your lap through a hole in the bottom, but if you are modest and only fill the cup half full you will be able to drink normally. The earliest cups of this type were made during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), but most are 18th or 19th century.

By appointment only, 10th arrondissement, Paris. / +33 (0)6 26 57 59 87

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