Silver cup

From China, Tang dynasty, 8th century AD

Jade and bronze were traditionally prized by the Chinese as their most valued materials, whereas gold and silver were not so highly rated. However, gold and silver utensils were gradually introduced to China from Central Asia and lands further west.

The idea of using these precious metals for religious objects and later secular use was particularly popular with the non-Chinese Buddhist rulers of north China during the period between the Han and Tang dynasties (220-618), and such usage gradually became widespread among the Chinese elite.

Hunting scenes, such as on this cup, were copied from Chinese paintings, lacquer designs and tomb murals. The mounted archer is also often found on Tang dynasty artefacts, such as woven and printed silks from Turfan in Central Asia.

The simple flower scroll chased in fine lines against a plain background would not have been easily visible without some sort of texture to distinguish the smooth petals and leaves from the undecorated surface of the cup. The fine ring-punched background makes this decoration explicit.

The taut plant scrolls with palmette-like flowers are the Tang version of a motif originally derived from the Near East but already established in the Chinese tradition for some three centuries.

Imperial China


Imperial Chinese history is marked by the rise and fall of many dynasties.

Imperial China world culture

Tang dynasty

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Height: 9.8 cm
Diameter: 7.7 cm (at lip)


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This object features in A History of the World in 100 objects

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