China’s Holy Grail, Or Just A Chicken Cup?

The “holy grail” of Chinese art recently sold at auction for an outlandishly high price. There is something about auctions that fill us with the burning desire to win the bidding war, at any cost, though I’m guessing a few of us might have stopped somewhere short of 36 million dollars.

Or perhaps not. When the object in question is touted as China’s “holy grail,” and money is no issue, the desire to obtain the masterpiece is met with little resistance.

The holy grail, as it is called, is a tiny porcelain cup, measuring only eight centimeters, that dates back to the fifteenth century Ming dynasty. It is ultra rare, one of only 17 known pieces in the world. “There’s no more legendary object in the history of Chinese porcelain,” said Nicholas Chow, Sotheby’s deputy chairman for Asia. “This is really the holy grail when it comes to Chinese art.”

The white porcelain Meiyintang Chenghua cup is called the “chicken cup” because it is decorated with two roosters, and a hen tending her chicks. “About a hundred years after they were made, in the late Ming dynasty, they were already highly sought after by emperors,” Nicolas Chow told CNN.

The holy grail, which was sold by Sotheby’s, was a record sale for the well-known auction house, bringing in 36 million dollars. The previous record was set in 2010 for a Qianlong period vase, also auctioned by Sotheby’s, which sold for 32.4 million dollars. A private art collector from Shanghai, Liu Yiqian, was the lucky winner of the holy grail. Liu said he is unconcerned about the price he paid for the holy grail. Of course, when you are worth 900 million dollars, a mere 36 mil is just a drop in the bucket.

In a telephone interview with the Wall Street Journalregarding the holy grail, Liu said, “Why do you all care about the price? I bought it only because I like it.” He went on to mention that in his estimation he paid a reasonable price for the holy grail. Together with his wife, Wang Wei, Liu owns a private museum where he shows a portion of his extensive collection. “I will show [the holy grail] at an appropriate time,” said Liu. “You will see it.”

In a related post by The Inquisitr, a red Ruby-Ground Double-Lotus “falangcai” bowl from the 1600s sold at Sotheby’s for 9.5 million dollars. Well, that just seems cheap compared to the more recent sale of the holy grail of Chinese art.

So is this miniscule cup worth all the fanfare and ridiculous spending? Is it a priceless historical artifact, or just a “chicken cup”? How do you feel about China’s so-called holy grail?

[Image via Veooz]