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14. Cup Stand
Ming dynasty, Yongle mark and period (14031424)
Carved red lacquer
h. 3 in. diam. (of plate) 6¾ in.
from Julia M. White, Masterpieces of Chinese Lacquer: From the Mike Healy Collection, China Institute, New York

Lacquer objects were expressly designed for functional use in the tea ceremony and in association with other leisure activities of the privileged class. This round cup stand, its exterior decorated with a densely filled floral pattern of peonies and chrysanthemums, and its interior of plain black lacquer, is just such an item. The bowl is attached to a mallow-shaped plate and then to a stand that is slightly flared at the base. A similar cup stand with a Yongle mark and floral decoration is in the Palace Museum collection in Beijing. 1

Cup, plate, and base all have thick red lacquer bands on their edges, capturing the full design. There is no background diaper pattern in the densely executed design, but the background is a pale yellowish-brown color. It is interesting to note that each band of decoration on the cup, the plate, and the stand is embellished with a single chrysanthemum surrounded by peony blossoms. The peony is associated with rank and the chrysanthemum with longevity, so the imagery may have been created for a special occasion.

Cup stands of lacquer were not made as drinking vessels themselves but as stands for a ceramic bowl that would be placed directly onto the stand's wide bowl. An elaborately decorated stand such as this fine piece might have been paired with a bowl of plain white porcelain, brown-glazed stoneware, or a more ornamental piece of fine celadon. The mallow shape of the plate is one seen frequently in earlier ceramics. 2

Cup stands with imperial marks of the Yongle period (14031424), with pronounced phoenix designs but otherwise similar shape, are in the Irving Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the Lee Family Collection. 3


1. Zhu Jiajin and Xia Gengqi, eds., Zhongguo qiji quanji (Lacquer treasures from China), vol. 5: Ming (Ming) (Fujian, China: Fujian Publishing House, 1998), no. 26, p. 23. Another is illustrated in a Hong Kong exhibition catalogue; see Peter Lam, ed., 2000 Years of Chinese Lacquer (Hong Kong: Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong and Art Gallery, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1993), cat. no. 46, pp. 9899.

2. Hin-Cheung Lovell, “Sung and Yuan Monochrome Lacquers in the Freer Gallery,” Ars Orientalis: The Arts of Islam and the East 9 (1973): 12130, discusses the mallow-shaped ceramics in relationship to Song-period ceramics.

3. James C.Y. Watt and Barbara Brennan Ford, East Asian Lacquer: The Florence and Herbert Irving Collection (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1991), no. 28, pp. 8687. See also Lee King Tsi and Hu Shih Chang, Drache und Phoenix: Lackarbeiten aus China, Sammlung der Familie Lee, Tokyo/Dragon and Phoenix: Chinese Lacquerware from the Sammy Lee Family Collection, Tokyo (Cologne, Germany: Museum of East Asian Art, 1990), cat. no. 46, pp. 12021.


© 2005 on loan to China Institute from the Honolulu Academy of Arts; photography by Suzo Uemoto.

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