An octogonal Blanc de Chine puzzle-cup. Late Ming

Of octogonal oblong form, moulded on six facets with prunus branches below a band of keyfret with a figure of Lu Hong Lu Jian standing inside concealing a hole in the base.

Period :
Late Ming dynasty (1368-1644), ca. 1640
2.55 in. (6.5 cm)
Reference :

Related works

For a cup of this model, see Marchant & Son, Exhibition of Blanc de Chine, 1985, no. 86.

Another cup, from the Collection of Marie Vergottis, is held on at the Fondation de l’Hermitage at Lausanne and is published by John Ayers in The Chinese Porcelain Collection of Marie Vergottis, 2004, p. 61, no. 34.

For tricks cups and a description of 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.


“Trick cup” are also know as « porcelain surprise », « Gong Dao Bei », « don`t be greedy cup », « fairness cup » or  « puzzle cup » in blanc de chine.

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).

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