Chinese Art Collector Buys 500-Year-Old Teacup For $35 Million

A successful art collector from China, who is a billionaire in his own right, just broke some world records when he purchased a rare, 500-year-old teacup dating back to the Ming Dynasty at auction.

The cup, which is the most valuable of its kind, is considered to be the “holy grail” of Chinese porcelain, and was once owned by Chinese emperors. The cup purchased by, Liu Yiqian, is fondly named the “chicken cup” due its many elaborate and intricate hen and cockerel decorations.

It was made during the Ming Dynasty reign of Emperor Qianlong around 500 years ago and cost the slightly eccentric art collector a massive $35 million! But instead of putting the cup away somewhere safe and secure, the buyer decided to use it and even drink tea from it.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Yiqian said: “A Sotheby’s staffer poured me some tea. I saw the [chicken cup] and excitedly poured some of that tea into the cup and drank a little. Emperor Qianlong has used it, now I’ve used it. I just wanted to see how it felt.”

The cup, which measures roughly 3.1 inches in diameter, is one of only 17 left in the world today, four of which are owned privately. The “chicken cup” was made during the reign of the Chenghua Emperor, who ruled from 1464 to 1487.

Nicholas Chow, Sotheby’s deputy chairman for Asia. said to reporters: ‘There’s no more legendary object in the history of Chinese porcelain. This is really the holy grail when it comes to Chinese art.”

Yiqian made his fortune not in art but in the stock market during communist China’s move towards capitalism in the 1980s, investing much of that money in art.

Known for being the eccentric type, Yiqian apparently wears casual t-shirts to work, and is China’s 200th richest person.